Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil. A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.
But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household. Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables.
Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game. In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave. Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase? And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?
Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century. Recommended for fans of Andrew Taylor, CJ Sansom and SJ Parris.
It is always good to find a new writer of historical novels which have been carefully researched and yet take you straight to the heart of a thrilling murder mystery. Set in the last few years leading up to the English Civil War, it is a dangerous time when, for religious and political reasons, you can never be quite sure who is your enemy and who is your friend. Tom, who has been travelling the world as a spice merchant for the Tallant family, is perhaps rather naïve in his judgement of others. He soon finds himself, unfairly incriminated in a strange murder and he desperately tries to find the real culprit. But his life is complicated by meeting Elizabeth, an educated young woman, who enjoys smoking a pipe and studying the planets at night. Will this enigmatic heroine be able to work out who is deliberately putting his life in danger?
The story gives us a vivid picture of mid-seventeenth century London life and the plot moves rapidly from one important event to the next. In addition to the complex politics of the day which Tom must navigate as an MP, we also learn about his time spent in Amsterdam during the tulip bulb boom and collapse. After many dramatic scenes and dangerous escapades, we learn the truth and I am thrilled to read that this is the first of a series of crime mysteries set in this fascinating historical era.
Mike Ward is an English creator of historical fiction. Born in Liverpool, he was a BBC journalist and journalism academic before turning to non-factual writing.
His debut novel ‘The Rags of Time’ is located in London in 1639. It marks the start of a tumultuous 40 years – civil war, regicide, republic and royal restoration. Politics, religion, commerce, science, medicine – none are left untouched by this ferment of change.
Mike believes it’s the perfect setting for his hero Thomas Tallant’s series of adventures, starting first with ‘Rags’. He is currently working on its sequel.