The Last Protector (James Marwood & Cat Lovett, Book 4)

Written by Andrew Taylor
Review by Karen Warren

The Last Protector is the fourth book in a series featuring James Marwood, a clerk at the centre of government, and Cat Hakesby, assistant to her husband Simon in his architects’ practice. The year is 1688 and, as his ministers jockey for power and favour, the recently restored monarch, King Charles II, is uncomfortably aware that his power is not absolute and that no-one is to be trusted. At the same time, Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver and the “Last Protector” of the title, has secretly returned from exile in France, and is in danger of being used as a political pawn. Cat and Marwood encounter one another again and find themselves dragged into intrigues against their will.

This is a fast-moving book, full of tension and uncertainty. It shows a world where everyday survival is a battle, where other people are as much of a threat as disease or poverty. The story is told from multiple points of view, primarily those of Cat, Marwood and Ferrus, the mazer scourer (one of the lowly and unseen workers who spent their lives in the sewers, attempting to scrub them clean). I particularly liked the portrayal of 17th-century London: the narrow streets, the filth and the poverty, the sounds and the smells.

I found myself engaging with the main characters, particularly Cat, who struggles with her obstinate husband and her own thwarted ambitions. I look forward to reading the further adventures of Cat and Marwood.