It is December 1657. John Grey, at his cramped desk in Lincoln’s Inn, is attempting to resume his legal career. A mysterious message from a ‘Mr SK’ tempts him out into the snowy streets of London and to what he believes will be a harmless diversion from his studies.
Mr SK’s letter proves to have been intended for somebody else entirely and Grey finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a plot to assassinate the Lord Protector – a plot about which he now knows more than it is safe to know. Can he both prevent the murder and (of greater immediate relevance) save his own skin? Both the Sealed Knot and Cromwell’s Secretary of State, John Thurloe believe he is on their side, but he is unsure that either is on his. As somebody is kind enough to point out to him: ‘You are a brave man, Grey. The life of a double agent can be exciting but very short.’
Grey just has to hope that prediction is wrong.
A masterpiece of double dealing and clever plotting…
I have to admit to never really being a reader of historical crime fiction, but I have long been a big fan of LC Tyler, so when the opportunity arose to get an early copy of A Masterpiece Of Corruption , it was one I could not pass up.
The book is set in an intriguing, and certainly in my own circles, largely unknown period of English history, a time when the monarchy had been overthrown and Oliver Cromwell was in power over the country. It is a time about which I know little beyond what I learnt in school far too many moons ago, and one that is ensuring that I am more than a little fascinated with in this adventure.
A Masterpiece Of Corruption is the second book in Tyler’s series about young lawyer, and somewhat accidental double agent John Grey, a young republican, who with a royalist mother and step-father constantly finds himself precariously navigating his way between the two opposing sides.
In A Cruel Necessity, John uncovers the truth behind a murder in his home village in Essex, and begins to unravel the web of royalists, republicans, Roundheads and Cavaliers, spies and informants that surround him in his everyday life. A Masterpiece of Corruption sees him moving on from his discoveries, back in London and returning to his legal studies at the Lincoln Inn. He is only drawn back into those circles when a mysterious letter, leads to an even more mysterious meeting that sees Grey suddenly working for the advantage of the royalists. Grey immediately reports his new endeavour to his republican confidante and advisor John Thurloe, looking for help and guidance only to discover they would prefer to assist him in his task in order to further their own aims.
For me it is this meeting in the opening chapters which sums up much of what I love of LC Tyler’s writing, these characteristic bluff and double bluff conversations where no one knows really knows what the other is talking about, and yet each party seems utterly convinced that they do and indeed are also correct in their beliefs. They inject such realism into a character trying to muddle his way through a potentially dangerous situation, and into a story where everyone has a dedicated side, and yet insists on ‘covering their backsides’, as fear ensures they lack the conviction to stand up and be counted.
John Grey is a fabulous character, still very unsure in his dealings with not just The Sealed Knot, and John Thurloe, but also with his ‘cousin’ Aminta, daughter of his mother’s new husband and his own childhood friend. He seems completely unable trust in his own feelings about the ulterior motives of any and all of them, despite being quite insightful into the real ‘goings on’.
A Masterpiece Of Corruption is a masterpiece of double dealing, clever plotting, and with a sprinkling of humour as Grey’s puritanism and naiveté is challenged. It will draw you into its pages, lose you in its history, and deliver you an absolutely cracking read.
A Masterpiece in Corruption is published by Constable and available to buy from the 14th January 2016.