A Plague of Sinners

Written by Paul Lawrence
Review by Sara Wilson

A Plague of Sinners is the second chronicle of Harry Lytle, newly-appointed King’s Agent, and follows on from The Sweet Smell of Decay (reviewed in May’s HNR). Now working for the king under the authority of Lord Arlington, Harry, and his valiant companion Dowling the Butcher, is tasked with investigating the grisly murder of the Earl of St Albans. This investigation is hampered at every stage as various antagonists intervene, further murders occur, and the plague ravages the city of London.

Harry is at his most splendid when up against impossible odds, and his own violent death is threatened at every turn of the page. But still our dogged hero sets himself to catch a serial killer who takes pleasure in the pain and fear he inflicts.

With all the glory and dissolution of Restoration London as its backdrop, this novel is a fine rollicking romp that serves its humour pitch black and its terror in Technicolor. Harry Lytle is a great character, full of bluster, wit, cunning and morality. The action never lets up, and the reader is kept guessing right to the final pages.

A strong stomach may be required, and those of a squeamish disposition might spend much time flinching, but this is historical mystery at its very best.