The King’s Return: (Thomas Hill 3) (Thomas Hill Novels)

Written by Andrew Swanston
Review by E.M. Powell

It is spring 1661, and England awaits the coronation of Charles II in a London filled with hopes for the future. But it appears that England’s enemies are still at work. The murders of two gentlemen raise the suspicion that the re-established post office is being used in the plans of traitors. The threat of another outbreak of war becomes a possibility. Into this volatile environment comes Thomas Hill, a skilled cryptographer in the capital visiting friends. The king’s security advisor approaches Thomas for help in deciphering coded letters that have been intercepted by the post office. Yet as Thomas gets to grips with his task, more murders take place and his loved ones are in danger. He needs to find who is responsible.

This is the third outing for Thomas Hill, and I had not read the first two novels. But with such an exciting premise, I had high hopes for this latest instalment. I’m afraid it did not live up to my expectations. A very promising plot with interesting elements such as cryptography is let down with some weak characterisation. There is, for instance, an extremely traumatic event in a female character’s past, but its inclusion feels reduced to a plot device. Hill himself often appears to be a passive observer or narrator of scenes (particularly action scenes) which slows the pace down and drops the reader out of the story. I also found the portrayal of Josiah clumsily done. For a character to drop an ‘h’ every now and then to help convey his lowly status is fine – but for him to drop it every single time he uses it eventually grates. I am afraid I won’t be reading the other books in the series.