The Westminster Poisoner

Written by Susanna Gregory
Review by Cathy Kemp


Setting The Westminster Poisoner during the festivities of Christmas and Twelfth Night of 1663-1664 gives Gregory ample opportunity to spin a complicated web of corruption and suspense.

The court appointed “Lord of Misrule” gave the nobles of the time fair excuse for carrying out any number of pranks on their colleagues and acquaintances, without fear of reprisal since it would be deemed unsporting not to enjoy the fun. Lady Castlemaine, the king’s mistress, took advantage of this cover to upset those who she felt obstructed her path, including the queen. While the court was thus distracted, it provided cover for the killing of clerks in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. Thomas Chaloner, tasked by the Lord Chancellor to investigate, finds vice and corruption so rife that no one can be excluded from suspicion. Given a time limit to find the culprits for the murders and to recover the Bellini bust stolen from the King’s collection, together with some dubious competition from another spy employed by the Lord Chancellor, Chaloner is under pressure to resolve the mystery.

Following on from the previous Chaloner adventures set in Restoration London, Gregory gives the reader an engaging historical tale with good historical background to allow the imaginary setting to be sufficiently real.