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The damage caused by the Great Fire still overshadows the capital. When a man’s brutally disfigured body is discovered in the ruins of an ancient almshouse, architect Cat Hakesby is ordered to stop restoration work. It is obvious he has been murdered, and Whitehall secretary James Marwood is ordered to investigate.
It’s possible the victim could be one of two local men who have vanished – the first, a feckless French tutor connected to the almshouse’s owner;
the second, a possibly treacherous employee of the Council of Foreign Plantations.
The pressure on Marwood mounts as Charles II’s most influential courtiers, Lord Arlington and the Duke of Buckingham, show an interest in his activities – and Marwood soon begins to suspect the murder trail may lead right to the heart of government.
Meanwhile, a young, impoverished Frenchwoman has caught the eye of the king, a quiet affair that will have monumental consequences…
The Shadows of London, book six in Andrew Taylor’s fabulous series of historical mysteries set in post-Restoration London, finds our protagonists, James Marwood and Cat Hakesby (née Lovett) once again embroiled in an intricate and cleverly constructed murder mystery. Like the earlier books in the series the mystery in this one stands alone, but I’d recommend reading them in order so as to gain a fuller understanding of the relationship between the two principals.
It’s been five years since the Great Fire that destroyed so much of London, and since the night Marwood and Cat first met. Reconstruction of the City continues, and Cat, who took over the running of her husband’s architectural firm after his death, has been awarded the contract to build a new almshouse and some new brick houses in Chard Lane, on the site of the ancient almshouse destroyed in the fire. But when a the body of a man is discovered partly buried beneath piles of rubble and old bricks, his face beaten so badly as to be unrecognisable, the work has to be halted. Frustrated at at the delay, which could mean severe financial loss, Cat reluctantly asks James Marwood if he can do anything to help.
Marwood is in the employ of Lord Arlington who, as Keeper of the Privy Purse, is the second most powerful man in England, answerable only to the King. Marwood, who is part clerk, part spy, has frequently been directed by Arlington to conduct murder investigations, and when ‘My Lord’ hears about the body in Chard Lane, he tells Marwood to find out everything he can about the murder – although he isn’t, at this stage, willing to intervene on Cat’s behalf.
The first thing to do is to identify the victim, and Cat and Marwood soon work out that there are two likely candidates. One is the young man who had been employed as French tutor to the daughter of Mr. Hadgraft – who is currently Cat’s employer as commissioner of the Chard Lane project – the other is a man named Iredale, who is employed as a clerk at the Council of Foreign Plantations. Both are nonentities, making the motivation for murder unclear, but when Cat and Marwood learn of the involvement of one of the Duke of Buckingham’s henchmen – a dangerous, violent man with whom they’ve had dealings before – they realise that there is much more at stake than it initially seemed. For Buckingham, who hates Marwood and takes every opportunity to denigrate him, to be taking an interest in the murder of a nobody is strange, to say the least, and as Cat and Marwood dig deeper, it becomes clear that whoever the victim was, this murder is somehow linked to those at the very heart of power at the English court.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.