The Drowned City

Written by K. J. MAITLAND
Review by jay Dixon

This novel, set in 1606, opens with an excellent description of the Bristol tsunami of that year, in which a body of a woman is revealed. The next chapter, written in the first person, jumps to Newgate Prison in London, where the hero, Daniel Pursglove, awaits his punishment. He is saved by Charles FitzAlan, advisor to King James I, who wants him to go to Bristol, a hotbed of Roman Catholic spies, and investigate whether or not the tsunami is God’s vengeance and to uncover a spy ring.

Once there Daniel finds himself caught up in a Jesuit conspiracy and in pursuit of a killer. Daniel is an inexperienced investigator and searches Bristol for people he thinks can give him information. In doing so, he upsets some powerful people but always manages to land on his feet, either due to the help he receives from a boy named Myles and a woman called Rachel, or through his own exertions, often escaping what looks to be certain death.

The main part of the novel stays with Daniel in Bristol, but there are the occasional chapters in the third person, in London, when Robert Cecil is shown weaving his plots. It is too complex to summarise briefly, and at first the reader wonders where the story is going, but in the end all the threads are resolved, except one which, according to the author’s endnote, will be a continuous thread throughout the series.

For me, although the period and place are well drawn, the novel is too descriptive, but I can recommend it to those who like a well-plotted, atmospheric historical novel, which is a leisurely read and has a satisfying conclusion.