Sunday, February 7, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear Pit by S.G. Maclean

 Among the best historical thrillers I have read are the books in the A Captain Damian Seeker Novel series by S.G. Maclean. Set in England during the time of Oliver Cromwell, the books focus on the exploits of Damian Seeker, captain of Cromwell’s guard. The first book is The Seeker, and you should really start there. I bought book four, The Bear Pit, while reading book three, but I’ve been holding off reading it because these books are so amazing I don’t want them to end. (The fifth book, which I fear is the last, will be out in paperback in the fall, and I’m trying to wait till then to buy it. I might not be able to wait.)

Seeker is a busy, busy man, given Cromwell’s increasing unpopularity and the numerous factions that are attempting to eliminate him: Royalists, Republicans, foreign governments, disaffected one-time adherents. The head of Cromwell’s intelligence agency, John Thurloe (Seeker’s direct boss) is overwhelmed with all the reports he’s receiving and can’t keep up with the threats. It’s Seeker’s responsibility to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

On a personal level, Seeker is also busy. The long-lost daughter he retrieved from the north is now living under an assumed identity in London, helping to serve in a tavern. The owner of the tavern, Dorcas, is a smart, good-hearted woman in love with Seeker, and he takes what comfort there that he can. However, his heart still belongs to Maria Ellingworth, sister of a radical Republican lawyer. Their relationship was thwarted by politics and family loyalty. But when their paths cross accidentally, after two years of no contact, it’s clear they are both suffering from being apart.

Seeker also has to keep tabs on Thomas Faithly, a “turned” Royalist that he recruited as a spy, but whose loyalties he can’t be sure of. 

If all that isn’t enough, there is a bear somewhere in the bowels of London that has been feasting on human flesh. Bear-baiting, once a popular gambling sport, has been banned. Supposedly, all the bears were shot. Bear-hunting would normally be below Seeker’s pay grade, but the victim of the attack was an old army buddy of Samuel Kent, Samuel being a coffeehouse owner who Seeker would consider a friend if he had friends.

The politics of the times have been so well portrayed throughout the series that they are treated a little more lightly in this book. The reader is already immersed so it’s easy to follow what’s going on. The stakes are high for Seeker, since he must always, above all else, serve Cromwell’s interests, but his own interests are getting harder to set aside. I’m rooting for Seeker, not Cromwell.

This series is phenomenal. Highly recommended.

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