The Chelsea Strangler

Written by Susanna Gregory
Review by E.M. Powell

It’s 1665, and a stifling, half-deserted London is in the relentless, terrifying grip of the plague. The naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft has meant that the government has commandeered the theological college at Chelsea to house Dutch prisoners of war, and there are daily rumours that those sailors are on the brink of escaping, adding to the unease and fear. As if that weren’t enough, a vicious strangler is now stalking the neighbourhood. Thomas Chaloner is sent to investigate the murder of the first victim, an inmate of a private asylum for gentlewomen known as Gorges. Thefts have taken place there as well, but Chaloner struggles to get to grips with unreliable accounts and suspicious contradictions. He soon suspects that there are links between Gorges and the prison. As the body count mounts, so does the pressure on Chaloner to halt the murderous rampage.

Although this is the eleventh volume in the Thomas Chaloner series, it was the first I have read. Gregory’s Restoration London is vividly portrayed, and I was immersed in it. Yet, while skilfully done, it never overwhelms her very real and relatable characters, whether they are fictional or real historical figures. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a standalone novel, and found it a pacy and engrossing historical mystery. And, as with the best mysteries, I didn’t guess the end. A very fine read.