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The Piccadilly Plot by Susanna Gregory

The Piccadilly Plot

by Susanna Gregory

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The second series of Susannah Gregory's historical crime mysteries, following her Matthew Bartholomew Chronicles set in 14th century Cambridge, takes the reader to London under the reign of Charles II. The hero, Thomas Chaloner, is a former Parliamentary spy now eking out a living under the Restoration as an agent for the Earl of Clarendon. Chaloner is a resourceful individual, skilled in espionage and weaponry, and he needs to be, because there are an inordinately large number of people who don't like him, and not a few who want to kill him. He also has a wife he's not sure about and a houseful of surly servants. From the seemingly simple task of finding out who's been stealing bricks from his master's new mansion, he winds up in a labyrinthine mystery involving English diplomatic manoueverings in North Africa, the slave trade and a plot to discredit the Queen, which he duly solves, with a little help from his friends, after escaping from numerous life-threatening situations in the nick of time. I had originally dipped into this series at the start, but found it somewhat disappointing after my enjoyment of the Bartholomew series, feeling that Gregory was more comfortable dealing with the 14th century, however, this 7th entry has been a pleasant surprise, a much more confident outing, with humour, pathos and high drama in equal quantities. Chaloner is a likeable character, perhaps more so than the rather vapid Bartholomew. His supporting ensemble is perhaps less engaging, however, this is only the 7th iteration of the series, whereas the Bartholomew series, topping 19 books, has had much more development time. On the strength of this book, I doubt I will be re-visiting the earlier books in the series, however, I will certainly seek out the next entries. Worth reading. ( )
  drmaf | May 1, 2014 |
Poor Thomas. I mean really. How can you not feel sorry for him?

Everybody treats him with contempt. That includes his employer, his wife, his servants, the court and the community at large. Save for one single, solitary spymaster friend, he's a complete loner. His life is a drudge. He's married to a shrew. When he's not suffering her appalling cooking, he's resorting to drinking cold milk and eating cold and gristly meat pies. He never gets a good night's sleep. His only comfort in life is his viol, which he seldom gets to play because his wife won't let him. Yet he somehow manages to limp along through Restoration London solving crimes without his efforts ever being rewarded or even recognised. He moves in a difficult world of personal and political intrigue - all in the name of his rather disappointing career.

In this adventure, Chaloner is recalled by the Earl from investigating skulduggery in Tangier. He is soon working on four separate mysteries, including tracking down the thieves who are pilfering materials from the mansion being constructed for the Earl by society architect, Roger Pratt. However, the more he digs into these mysteries, the more they appear to be connected. And as he gets closer to unmasking the villains, his life is put in danger, not once, but several times. Thomas is further challenged by being asked by long-time enemy, Williamson the Spymaster, for his help - but he soon recognises that there are benefits in sharing information to bring together this complex weave of plot threads. The solution doesn't begin to come clear until the last thirty pages and, when it does, it is a doozy.

I’ve come to like Thomas - although, at the seventh adventure, I still find it difficult to picture him with the clarity that I could see Matthew Bartholomew, Gregory’s other leading man. ( )
  Jawin | Dec 27, 2013 |
This is a highly complex historical espionage book. As usual Ms. Gregory uses her impeccable historical knowledge to craft a story around actual real historical people. She peoples each book with her own characters and the two mix and mingle, plot and counter-plot seemlessly. This book is a real page-turner. Chaloner is on his most dangerous mission ever and he's forced to face off against some truly evil villains. The setting is London 1860's. The Restoration is in full swing and King Charles is firmly on the throne. Chaloner is working on four separate mysteries, but the more he digs into them, the more they appear to be connected. And as he gets closer to unmasking the villains, his life is put in danger, not once, but several times. Ms. Gregory's main strength is her impressive plotting skills. This story has more twists and turns than a Victorian labyrinth. I invite all to climb aboard the Thomas Chaloner train if you love historical mysteries. This is one of the best series out there. I love it just as much as her Matthew Barholomew series which I also read faithfully. ( )
  Romonko | Mar 9, 2013 |
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Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London from Tangier where his master has sent him to investigate a case of corruption, but the trivial reason for his recall exasperates him - the theft of material from the construction site of Clarendon's new house just north of Piccadilly.… (more)

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