The Body in the Thames

Written by Susanna Gregory
Review by Cathy Kemp

In early June, 1664, Thomas Chaloner was married in one of the fiercest summer storms in living memory. The presiding vicar seemed more concerned with the fabric of his church withstanding this onslaught than with the joining together of the groom and his betrothed, Hannah. As the storm reaches its peak and the legalities are swiftly dispatched, the wedding party prepare to exit when a poorly clothed man is found stabbed in the back with a note attached.

From here on Chaloner is thrown into a complicated plot in his attempts to unravel the mysteries surrounding numerous unexplained deaths. The initial body belongs to a one-time Cavalier spy who has fallen onto hard times through gambling, and the attached note makes no sense to those who found him. Another body is found in the Thames and belongs to the brother of Tom’s first wife, in London with the Dutch delegation hoping to reach a peace agreement which will avoid war. Chaloner has the unenviable task of identifying the body, already decomposing from the summer heatwave, surrounded by a stench so great that he feels unequal to the task. Without many promising leads and fewer allies, Chaloner pushes forward to identify the person responsible for this mayhem, gathering pace as he uncovers the interconnecting links.

In each of the books in this series Susanna Gregory jettisons you backwards in time to the sights, sounds and smells of the 17th century. Her descriptive passages, and the development of characters, place the reader within the text, not flinching from actions and reactions, rushing onwards to the crime solutions with the lead character.