The Royal Secret is another excellent instalment in the historical drama series by Andrew Taylor that started in 1666 with the Fire of London. I hesitate to call The Royal Secret a thriller as these books cross historical sub-genres and are consequently fulfilling on a number of levels. Crime, political intrigue, social commentary, architecture, strong characterization and a dash of romance all set in the post-Restoration excess, poverty and turmoil of Charles II’s rule.
Every successful thriller needs a villain to hate and Dutchman [or is he?] Henryk van Riebeeck certainly gives James Marwood the run-around. Marwood, now working for Secretary of State Lord Arlington, is charged with investigating the disappearance of top secret papers and the sudden death of a palace clerk. As Marwood follows the trail across London via a gambling club and Smithfield meat market, Cat Hakesby pursues success as an architect. Having completed a successful commission – a rather grand poultry house – her next project is a bigger, grander poultry house for a French aristocrat who is also sister of King Charles. Nothing is as it seems in this series so when Cat travels to France to show her plans to her client, we know she must unwittingly be caught up in a political intrigue. But what exactly? And how does this connect with Marwood’s pursuit of missing state papers which threaten a diplomatic treaty being negotiated between the English and the French? Is van Riebeeck a villain or a hero?
Based on the machinations of a real treaty between France and England, Taylor has once again combined a sharp plot with colourful characters [one gentleman is a collector of exotic animals] and, of course, Marwood and Cat. The will-they-won’t-they thread which runs throughout this series faces a chasm here not helped by copious misunderstandings, jealousy, Cat’s stubborn independence and Marwood’s dedication to the secrecy of his employment.
Excellent. Bring on the next one.
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THE ROYAL SECRET by @AndrewJRTaylor #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5fe via @SandraDanby