Saturday, August 8, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean

 The second book in the  Damian Seeker series by S.G. MacLean, The Black Friar, is as superb as the first, The Seeker

Picking up where Book 1 left off, Damian Seeker continues in his role as the captain of Oliver Cromwell’s guard. It’s a difficult job, protecting the Lord Protector, when plots are springing up right and left. The main antagonists are the Royalists, but there are also Fifth Monarchists (religious fanatics) as well as the generally disenchanted folks who once supported Cromwell but who speak against him now that he has assumed the role of king. For them, he’s no better than the deposed and executed tyrant.

Amongst the disenchanted are those honest people we met in book one, Elias Ellingworth, an impoverished lawyer and pamphleteer, and his sister, Maria. Seeker and Maria have begun an affair. For these star-crossed lovers, there is no viable future. Seeker knows it’s only a matter of time before he will have to arrest Elias, and possibly Maria herself. Keeping such a relationship secret with so many spies watching each other is also a dangerous undertaking.

As the book opens, a dead man is found walled into an old monastery. The body is too well- preserved to belong to the centuries-old location or to the Blackfriar’s clothing he’s wearing. Seeker recognizes the man, a spy who was supposed to have died months earlier, a spy whose funeral he witnessed. The man was deeply embedded in uncovering something. Seeker’s superior, Thurloe, assigns Seeker to find out what the spy had learned that got him killed.

At the same time, children are going missing in the city. Not many, but the coincidence is too striking for Seeker to ignore since their circumstances are not typical of runaways or street children.

Seeker is good at his job. He’s known and widely feared throughout the city. He navigates the swirling conspiracies within the government with intelligence and cynicism. He’s kind to the lowly but ruthless to those who fall afoul of the law.  And if he has to choose between his duty to Cromwell and his love for Maria. . .

Again, the various threads of the mystery are thickly interwoven. The historical background is fascinating. And Seeker’s personal battles are as gripping as the political ones.

I have book three on my shelf and book four on order. These books are great!

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