Having a penchant for historical crime dramas, I was really excited to read this, the first in a new series by fantasy writer Stephen Deas. The change to murder mystery during the English Civil War comes from his love of the period, and makes a refreshing change for the Tudors or the Victorians. The English Civil War is one of those frightfully important points of English History I know very little about, and this book was not only a rather enjoyable read but also an informative one.
The hero, William Falkland, is a former farmer who has been dragged into fighting on the Royalist side by his father-in-law. Captured and imprisoned in Newgate, Falkland believes he is a dead man when he is rescued by Oliver Cromwell himself, who has heard of his ruthlessness as an investigator. Falkland previously defied the King himself to see justice done in his previous camps, and now Cromwell needs a ‘man of conscience’ to investigate the mysterious deaths occurring in the New Model Army camp.
Yes, the set up is fairly contrived and ridiculous, but once you get over that and the constant refrain of how Falkland just wants to get back to his darling wife and kids its a damn good mystery that evokes the political and religious upheaval of the time. It also gives a really interesting insight into the New Model Army, where it came from, what it’s ideals where, and makes you look at soldiering a different ways. Before the New Model, soldiers were not regularly paid, they fought because they had to, for booty and for plunder. I also found the descriptions of the way the soldiers lived absolutely fascinating and obviously told by a writer who knows his subject well.
The mystery is well set up; several young men have been found dead in ways that makes in look like suicide. But when Falkland arrives at the camp he discovers that there is a seething tension in the camp, and in the town it has taken over. A very well layered story, atmospheric in the right parts, and with excellent period detail.
I enjoyed this book, it was make a cracking beach read, its quite gory but not horrible and, once the story has been set up, thunders along. I’ll look out for future Falkland mysteries, he’s a hero that has yet to be fully developed, but will be fun to see grow.