The King’s Spy
Even in a quiet backwater like Romsey, pacifist bookseller and mathematician Thomas Hill cannot entirely avoid the lawlessness and disruption of the English Civil War. But when a stranger arrives with the message that Thomas’s former tutor at Oxford has recommended him to replace King Charles’ recently murdered cryptographer, Thomas finds himself precipitated into a world full of deceit and violence. There is a traitor in the king’s court who will stop at nothing to keep his identity secret…
This debut novel takes an under-used and dramatic period of history as its backdrop and attempts to present it, warts and all (as Cromwell might say), taking neither the Royalist nor the Parliamentarian side.
Unfortunately, I can’t help feeling that if there had been more depth and subtlety in the characterisation, it would not have been so simple to identify the villains (who apparently have no redeeming features) and that I might have cared more about which of the secondary characters survived and which met a grisly end. Occasionally the dialogue too seems to be there purely to convey information (particularly about ciphers and code-breaking), rather than to develop character at the same time.
A brave attempt, but it didn’t blow me away.