It is the year 1666. The Reformation has come to England. Cromwell is dead. The King has been returned to his throne. The regicides have been executed. Yet all is not calm, all is not right, there is no peace in London. A fire rages, destroying one of the world’s greatest cities. So begins Andrew Taylor’s story of murder, espionage, politics and that all encompassing nadir, human frailty. Ashes of London is a historical thriller that enchants.
We are introduced to young Catherine Lovett. The daughter of a regicide, who has been living off the sufferance of an uncle. She is engaged to be married in an advantageous, yet loveless, marriage. Meanwhile, her cousin Edward, a spoiled, useless ne’er-do-well stalks her every move in the house. She has one loyal friend, an old servant Jem, who helps her just when she needs it the most. But Cat isn’t one to sit idly by and allow life to be decided for her.
There is Marwood, whose father has paid the price of prison for his activities against the British crown, who is now a lowly go-for at a printers. His ailing and senile father, has been granted parole from prison but only into Marwood’s care. Then as the great church of St. Paul’s is burning, on the way to work one day, he saves a teenage boy from being burnt alive.
We watch as the great cathedral is decimated by the brutality of the fire. So much is lost and yet, St. Paul’s also gives up a secret. A murder. Marwood then finds himself in the middle of the investigation. Tasked with helping find the culprit. Our lowly clerk is drawn into the uncertainty of royal machinations, and threats to the crown.
And somehow these two young people from very different walks of life meet. This acquaintance leads to dangers, reckonings, and eventually to revenge. Conspiracies abound. Lives are threatened. And the vagaries of an uncertain future take hold for every person living in the ravaged alleyways of London.
The author brings to life Charles Stuart’s England. We can see the streets, the life, and the cares of the average person. Through vivid descriptions we can see the London of 1666. We can hear the din of the humanity. We understand the rules, the law, and the way of life. We can almost smell the smoke of a ravaged and destroyed city.
Ashes of London is not only a terrific historical novel, but it is a many layered murder mystery filled with politics, double-crosses, and betrayals, that will keep you guessing to the very end. You will not be able to put it down.