Written by David Hingley

Mercia Blakewood has returned to England, having successfully concluded her assignment in New York on behalf of King Charles the Second. Surely now he will give favourable consideration to her claim on Halescott Manor, her ancestral home? Her uncle, Francis Simmonds, has taken possession and wants Mercia dead, but at least he is an open enemy.

The King proposes one more task for Mercia before dealing with her claim on the manor. A spy is at large, working for England’s greatest enemy, the Dutch, who are growing in power with a formidable navy whose overt ambition is a successful invasion and conquest of England. Out of five possible women at King Charles’s court, Mercia’s task is the identification of the spy and traitor known as “Virgo”. From the start, Mercia is in danger as her enemy demonstrates power, and in one terrifying sequence she undergoes interrogation in the Tower of London. All this, against a background of extravagant frivolity and outrageous fashions at court and London’s dark underworld of casual murder. There are even whispers of the Plague.

Readers will be rewarded with a splendid dual-climax of naval battle where even those watching from the shore will be far from safe. This was a period when England’s whole future was in doubt, a simmering cauldron of possibility. The author, with boisterous enthusiasm, has seized on this promising situation, making the most of it by writing this exciting novel.