The King’s Evil (Marwood and Lovett #3), by Andrew Taylor

Eight stars

The third of Andrew Taylor’s novels in this seres takes the reader on yet another adventure into the streets of London and around the English countryside. James Marwood is still serving his two masters and making a decent name for himself in 1667. However, when summoned to see King Charles II, Marwood is sent on an unenviable task to investigate a murder. When he arrives, Marwood learns the victim is Edward Alderley, an evil man in his own right and one known to Marwood, at least tangentially. His acquaintance, Cat Lovett, had spoken of her cousin and despises him for reasons revealed in the text. While Marwood begins working through the case, he must face the rumours that Cat may be responsible, though his gut tells him otherwise. King Charles II has been undertaking ceremonial laying on of hands for some of the locals afflicted with scrofula (tuberculosis), which is all the talk around London, though Marwood tries not to get caught up in the fervour while seeking to find a killer. It would seem one is not enough, as a second man is found dead, drowned in a mill pond. With the pressure on and Cat Lovett still in hiding, Marwood has to clear her name while keeping her location under wraps. This will again put many in peril and stir up an ever-boiling pot once again. Well paced and a strong continuation of the series by Andrew Taylor, who shows he has a handle on the series. Recommended to those who enjoy English period pieces, particularly the reader who finds historical mysteries of interest.

Andrew Taylor dazzles as he continues to delve into the world of 17th Century London. Mixing a strong story with historical goings-on, Taylor weaves together a narrative that will keep the reader enticed throughout. Taylor brings back the dual protagonists, but the focus certainly focuses on James Marwood. In a story that involves many subplots, there are hints at character development for Marwood. The reader discovers some of his personal feelings for others in the tale, including a love interest that has him wrapped around her finger. Marwood remains determined to take his job seriously and forges ahead, seeking out a murderer with a motive, while trying to protect his acquaintance in hiding, Cat Lovett. Looking at Lovett, the other protagonist, the reader discovers some troubling events in her past that explain much of the animosity towards Edward Alderley. This, and the ongoing hunt for her as daughter of a key plotter during the Civil War gives a better picture of who she is and how her life has been shaped by distrust. Taylor peppers the narrative with many other characters, all who provide the reader with historical education about life in these times, as well as some lighter banter. These wonderful storylines involve a number of the characters and permit ongoing complementing of the larger story. The story remained sound and the history seems realistic enough to leave me wondering how close it parallels fact. I am eager to see where Taylor seeks to go with the series, whose fourth book is due out in Spring 2020.

Kudos, Mr. Taylor, for keeping me in a growing state of education while entertaining me at each turn.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Fire Court (Marwood and Lovett #2), by Andrew Taylor

Eight stars

Returning for the second in this 17th century series, Andrew Taylor takes readers back to the streets of London, with another historical mystery. With strong characters and a plot that will keep readers guessing, the book proves as entertaining as the series debut. As the ashes continue to cool after London’s Great Fire, it is time to consider rebuilding and getting back in order. The King has decided that this cannot be done entirely without direction and he creates a Fire Court to handle disputes emanating from the fire and the vast destruction it caused. James Marwood is also trying to keep things in order as a clerk, while tending to his sick father, Nathaniel, who is still bitter about his time in prison for Regicide. When the elder Marwood wanders off, he is said to have come across the body of a woman in the building used by the Fire Court. His religious sentiments has him brand her a whore, which he recounts to his son, while also saying that he saw his long-dead wife, Rachel. However, Nathaniel’s mind is clouding and he dies in a freak accident days later. Marwood first dismissed his father’s ravings as dementia, but now cannot help but wonder if there is a grain of truth, and begins looking into the claims. It would seem that there are a few who wish to bend the ear of the Court to begin a lucrative building project called Dragon’s Yard. Marwood comes face to face with these men, both of whom are eager to push through their plans, letting no one stand in the way. Cat Lovett has been living under the radar as a house maid. She is pulled into the investigation when Marwood comes to find her and they discover that there are some definitive links between the Fire Court’s decision on Dragon’s Yard and the murdered woman. Marwood and Lovett are in great danger, but must risk it all to bring a murderer from out of the shadows. Taylor uses the time period and a slow, drawn-out mystery to his advantage in this piece. Recommended to those who love time period pieces, especially the reader who finds mysteries to their liking.

Andrew Taylor does well in this follow-up novel that delves deeper into the world of 17th Century London. There is little time for the reader to get their bearings, as the history emerges on the opening page. It would seem that Andrew Taylor feels there is no better way to get involved than to toss the reader off the literary deep end. Taylor brings back a few strong characters to shape this novel, including the dual protagonists. James Marwood grows in this story, showing more of his personality through the actions he undertakes. Taylor portrays Marwood as a dedicated worker, but also a son who has been saddled with dealing with a father whose mental capacity is quickly slipping away. Marwood will not let justice go unheeded, as he pushes through this tale, chasing down a killer who appears to be disposing of anyone standing in the way of a conniving plot. The reader will see a little backstory and some character development in this piece, adding a stronger foundation that can be useful in the upcoming novels in this series. Cat Lovett is again seeking to stay off the radar, partially because of her connection to a known plotter of Regicide. Cat tries her hand at blending in, but is soon summoned to help out. She finds herself helping her fellow protagonist, shedding a little more light onto her character and true colours. There are many who appear throughout the narrative and provide the reader with both entertainment and historical education about life in these times. Taylor has created wonderful storylines that include these various characters, all of whom complement the larger story and the protagonists’ progress. The story remained sound, leaving the reader to enjoy some of the historical references and banter. There are countless political and regal influences within the narrative, as in the first novel, which were also of great interest to me. I am eager to see where Taylor takes us in the third novel, which awaits me as soon as I post this review.

Kudos, Mr. Taylor, for another entertaining read. I am learning so very much with this series and cannot wait to discover more.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Ashes of London (Marwood and Lovett #1), by Andrew Taylor [re-read]

Eight stars

I chose to return to this book again, having had a mediocre audiobook experience last summer. Andrew Taylor’s series of historical fiction was sure to be exciting, based on the little I know before starting. The cover and title drew me in while I was walking through the library on one occasion and I could not wait to see if it lived up to my expectations. It’s September of 1666 and London is burning! The Great Fire began sweeping through the city and people are dying en masse as buildings fall. Smoke and ash pepper various streets, including the massive structure of St. Paul’s Cathedral, thought to be impregnable. Amongst the debris found within this great church is a body, badly charred and with its hands pushed behind the back, thumbs tied. James Marwood serves as a government informer and reluctantly agrees to begin searching for what might have happened so that the killer can be apprehended. Marwood struggles, as he seeks to shed himself of his father’s shadow, a former printer and admitted plotter in the death of the former king. England is still shaking off the shackles of their Civil War and Cromwell’s time as head of the government, though sentiments are still divided. As Marwood investigates, more bodies with similar thumb bindings are found, forcing him to explore numerous motives. With calls to bring those guilty of Regicide to justice, there is a theme of the End of Days as well, pointing to the ‘666’ in the current year. All the while, one of on the Regicide list includes the father of one Catherine ‘Cat’ Lovett. Marwood seeks to locate her. While some seem to know of her, it would seem that she and Marwood have an inadvertent past when Lovett lifted one of his cloaks during an earlier skirmish. Might England be preparing for an ecclesiastical event, begun with a raging fire? Marwood explores all his options while others are wrestling with issues of their own and London comes to terms with the devastation, seeking to rise from the ashes and rebuild in short order. Marwood and Lovett soon join forces to find answers before the murderer stricken again, or so they hope. Taylor propels readers into this interesting piece, full of drama, mystery, and history. Recommended to those who enjoy English history and murder, blended into a strong piece of fiction.

As this was my first novel by Andrew Taylor, I was unsure what I ought to expect. He gives the reader little time to acclimate, as the history comes flooding in on the opening page. While some may be put off by the immediate slide into the past, there is no better way to get involved than to toss the reader off the literary deep end. Taylor uses a handful of strong characters to lay the groundwork for this novel, now known to be the first in a series. James Marwood is an interesting protagonist, taking the reader along on this complex journey through both formal duties and personal struggles. Taylor portrays Marwood as a man who seek to balance his life, though there are stains upon his character that he cannot remove, carrying the Marwood name. Cat Lovett is an equally interesting character, coming from the opposite side of the coin. She serves as a lowly savant, but has a history she wishes no one to discover. She seeks to dodge those who might finger her as the daughter of one of England’s most sought-after criminals. Still, some underlying themes in character development showed me that others had interesting instances of personal growth. The story was sound and I enjoyed some of the historical references and banter, as well as appearances by those who played a key role in shaping London after the fire. The political and regal influences within the narrative were also of great interest to me, as was the religious undertones hinted at throughout. I knew of the Great Fire, but had not given it much thought, at least until reading Taylor’s piece. I will read the second in the series, as reading a digital copy proves more feasible than the audio version. I hope the potential reader will choose what works best for them.

Kudos, Mr. Taylor for an entertaining read. I found myself much more entertained this time around.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Ashes of London (Marwood and Lovett #1), by Andrew Taylor

Seven starsMy first trip into the world of Andrew Taylor’s historical fiction was sure to be exciting. The cover and title drew me in while I was walking through the library on one occasion and I could not wait to see if it lived up to my expectations. It’s September of 1666 and London is burning! The Great Fire has begun sweeping through the city and people are dying en masse. Smoke and ash pepper various streets, including the massive structure of St. Paul’s Cathedral, thought to be impregnable. Amongst the debris found within this great church is a body, badly charred and with its hands pushed behind the back, thumbs tied. James Marwood serves as a government informer and reluctantly agrees to begin searching for what might have happened so that the killer can be apprehended. Marwood struggles, as he seeks to shed himself of his father’s shadow, a former printer and admitted plotter in the death of the former king. England is still shaking off the shackles of their Civil War and Cromwell’s time as head of the government, though sentiments are still divided. As Marwood investigates, more bodies with similar thumb bindings are found, forcing him to explore numerous motives. With calls to bring those guilty of regicide to justice, there is a theme of the End of Days as well, pointing to the ‘666’ in the current year. Might England be preparing for an ecclesiastical event, begun with a raging fire? Marwood explores all his options while others are wrestling with issues of their own and London comes to terms with the devastation, seeking to rise from the ashes and rebuild in short order. Taylor propels readers into this interesting piece, full of drama, mystery, and history. Recommended to those who enjoy English history and murder, blended into a strong piece of fiction.As this was my first novel by Andrew Taylor, I was unsure what I ought to expect. He gives the reader little time to acclimate, as the history comes flooding in on the opening page. While some may be put off by the immediate slide into the past, there is no better way to get involved than to toss the reader off the literary deep end. Taylor uses a handful of strong characters to lay the groundwork for this novel, now known to be the first in a series. James Marwood is an interesting protagonist, taking the reader along on this complex journey through both formal duties and personal struggles. Taylor portrays Marwood as a man who seek to balance his life, though there are stains upon his character that he cannot remove, carrying the Marwood name. Some of the other storylines developed, though I will admit that by listening to the audiobook, my attention was sometimes waylaid and I could not focus as attentively as I might have liked. Still, some underlying themes in character development showed me that others had interesting instances of personal growth. The story was sound and I enjoyed some of the historical references and banter, as well as appearances by those who played a key role in shaping London after the fire. The political and regal influences within the narrative were also of great interest to me, as was the religious undertones hinted at throughout. I knew of the Great Fire, but had not given it much thought, at least until reading Taylor’s piece. I may return to read the second in the series, though am debating picking up a book version and re-reading this novel to collect the full impact before moving forward with future series novels.Kudos, Mr. Taylor for an entertaining read. High praise for you, though I suspect I ought to read this one again, eyes on the page, to give it the merit it deserves.A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons