Publication date: Paperback – 19th May 2016
Plotting, government censorship, covert surveillance – we’re wading deep into the territory of warily voicing your opinion against the current leadership skills of one Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, or face experiencing sheer terror at the hands of the law enforcement of the time, namely Cromwell’s agents and particularly one Damian Seeker, who shows little sympathy for others, as his only desire is to extract the truth.
These are desperately scary times. We’re talking 1654, where the locals gather in coffee shops to sample the proprietor’s wares and meet likeminded individuals to talk politics as freely as they dare, and hopefully not be arrested as a result. Putting the world to rights in a clandestine fashion the diehard Royalists continue to chip away at the Commonwealth, while Cromwell’s spies feed off fresh intelligence.
What’s abundantly clear is that we’re visiting a treacherous period in history. This not knowing who to trust business, not even your closest ally, is enough to drive anyone to insanity. People pray their name will not appear on a list that may fall into the infamous Seeker’s possession and be suspected of treason after someone pointed the finger in your direction. The Seeker’s reputation for sniffing out (and snuffing out) alleged traitors of Cromwell precedes him. If he’s not identified from his equally menacing horse, you’ll know he’s around as the atmosphere of a room alters drastically – when he asks you to start talking, you ask ‘yes, Mr Seeker, what would you like to know?’
Appropriately dressed in black, with a discreetly armoured hat (a wise choice given his line of work), his presence strikes fear into all civilians, as Seeker takes his orders very seriously. And yet there’s something about investigating the murder of one of Cromwell’s closest military figures that briefly hints toward another side to him and a past he’d rather forget.
How could someone have the audacity to slip passed the guards? Why would that person chance hanging about the still warm corpse just waiting to be arrested, let alone a well-known lawyer renowned for having outspoken views? And why abandon years of hard work to commit murder right under Cromwell’s nose? Not only is it out of character for the accused, it’s neither subtle or cleverly plotted. Something smells off to The Seeker and he’s determined to discover why the main suspect fails to co-operate when he’s faced with impending torture, to be followed by a swift execution, if he’s lucky.
Strangely, as the days into the investigation of John Winter’s murder tick by we discover traitorous intent that will blur lines quicker than the wet ink can run on Seeker’s ever-growing list of suspects. Seriously, I was losing track of their loyalties and just about everyone made me twitchy.
As the air fills with coffee grounds, pipe smoke and suspicion, and the pounding hooves of Cromwell’s cronies threaten the peace rather than keep it, there are some wonderful character portrayals to help conjure up the trepidation of the period. John Winter’s widow is behaving consistently bizarrely, so are a few coffee drinkers conspiring over a cup or two. Kent’s Coffee Shop and its owner will fall under close scrutiny leaving a young woman in peril, while the accused’s sister fiercely maintains his innocence, her feisty nature catching The Seeker’s attention. He’s not used to being spoken to in such a forthright manner but he admires her daring, and his reaction under the circumstances is disturbingly endearing considering he’s such an intimidating loner.
The Seeker is an undeniable enigma. Intrigue radiates from him, just like the story itself. The paths are signposted, but the one leading to the truth is incredibly well disguised. All in all, it’s a terrific blend of history and mystery, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
(Huge thanks to Olivia Mead of Quercus Publications for organising a paperback copy of this title for review.)
‘The Seeker is Winner of the 2015 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger’
London, 1654. Oliver Cromwell is at the height of his power and has declared himself Lord Protector. Yet he has many enemies, at home and abroad.
London is a teeming warren of spies and merchants, priests and soldiers, exiles and assassins. One of the web’s most fearsome spiders is Damian Seeker, agent of the Lord Protector. No one knows where Seeker comes from, who his family is, or even his real name. All that is known of him for certain is that he is utterly loyal to Cromwell, and that nothing can be long hidden from him.
In the city, coffee houses are springing up, fashionable places where men may meet to plot and gossip. Suddenly they are ringing with news of a murder. John Winter, hero of Cromwell’s all-powerful army, is dead, and the lawyer, Elias Ellingworth, found standing over the bleeding body, clutching a knife.
Yet despite the damning evidence, Seeker is not convinced of Ellingworth’s guilt. He will stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice: and Seeker knows better than any man where to search.
S.G. MacLean was born in Inverness and brought up in the Scottish Highlands. She obtained an MA and PH.D. in History from Aberdeen University. She began to write fiction while bringing up her four children (and Labrador) on the Banffshire coast. She has now returned to live in the Highlands, where her husband is a head teacher. ‘The Redemption of Alexander Seaton’ was short-listed for both the Saltire first book award and the CWA Historical Dagger; ‘The Seeker’ was winner of the 2015 Historical Dagger.