The Judge Hunter

Written by Christopher Buckley
Review by Bryan Dumas

Balthasar de St. Michel (Balty) is the shiftless brother-in-law of Samuel Pepys and is sent off by him to the American colonies under the guise of hunting two regicides hiding somewhere in New England.

In The Judge Hunter, Buckley (The Relic Master) has turned his quick wit and sharp writing focus on the 17th century in this 2nd book in his historical fiction series. In Balty, Buckley has a bumbling, chaffing protagonist who proves the perfect foil for the uptight social constructs of colonial New England. Though Pepys believes that Balty’s job hunting the regicides is more just a means for King Charles II to infuriate the colonists, Balty winds up entangled in a deeper plot that may just start a war with the Dutch. Helping Balty in the colonies is a former militia captain named Hiram Huncks who uses Balty’s royal commission as a cover to prepare for a war with New Netherlands.

Peppered with historical characters—Peter Stuyvesant, John Winthrop II—and cleverly using Samuel Pepys’ famous diaries, Buckley masterfully weaves a fictional story with historical fact. Two subplots, involving Samuel Pepys getting arrested for sneaking a peek at a secret document and a young Quaker woman needing rescue from zealous Puritan authorities, help to create a rich story ripe for Buckley’s humor and pointed satire on Puritan ideals, royal peccadillos, and political intrigue.

The Judge Hunter is an absorbing mystery/thriller with humorous dialog and characters that resonate and draw in the reader. Buckley’s ability to fuse fact with fiction makes this book a must for not just fans of historical fiction but anyone looking for a great read.