The King has fled London with the drums of war ringing in his ears. Across the country, lines are being drawn and armies raised. Influential royalist Lady Carlisle switches sides and presses spice trader Thomas Tallant and his partner Elizabeth Seymour into Parliament’s service.
Soon Thomas faces double-dealing in his hunt for a lethal hoard of gunpowder hidden on the river, while Elizabeth engages in a race against time to locate a hidden sniper picking off Parliamentary officers at will in the city.
The capital also witnesses a vicious gang of jewel thieves take advantage of the city’s chaos to go on the rampage, smashing homes and shops, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They hand pick their targets but refrain from selling any of their loot. There are more questions than answers.
When war finally erupts, Elizabeth is caught in the brutalising carnage of Edgehill while Thomas joins the Trained Bands in their defence of the city. As he mans the barricades at Brentford, in a desperate rearguard action to repel Prince Rupert’s surprise attack, he realises the future of London rests in the hands of him and a few hundred troopers.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth believes she has identified the jewel thief and goes underground to trace his hoard. But all is not as it seems.
I was excited to return to London in the mid 17th century as the first fighting of the Civil War is about to begin. Thomas Tallant, an upright young spice merchant, tries to continue his everyday life at the family’s Thameside wharf, but he is no longer required to go to parliament where he was recently an MP. As some of his workers and many of his friends join either the Parliamentary army or follow King Charles I, he must make a choice. To the distress of his father, Tom decides to offer his help to Philip Skippon, commander of the London Trained Bands of Parliamentarians. But Elizabeth Seymour, whom he loves dearly, has other concerns to occupy her mind and energy.
Elizabeth is an admirable but flawed heroine. Highly intelligent, she counts amongst her friends, William Harvey and Nicholas Culpeper. In this book she is forced by Lucy, Lady Carlisle, to investigate a series of jewellery robberies in London. Endangered by this she decides to respond to William Harvey’s request to help him treat the Royalist soldiers injured at the Battle of Edge Hill. This horrific experience leaves her with a form of PTSD which she does not understand. She deals with this by turning to drink but continues to follow leads in her search for the jewel thief. Meanwhile Tom gets into problems while searching wharfs for contraband gunpowder. Soon he finds himself on the front line fighting at Brentford.
The excitement of this story is provided by the authentic detail of battle practice including the loss of fellow soldiers, injury and capture. Tom and many others are only too aware that they are trying to kill their fellow countrymen. He discovers that there are good and evil men, serving on both sides. Alongside this action we are involved in Elizabeth’s dangerous investigation into who has chosen this traumatic year to steal so many valuable gems.
It is possible to read this novel as a standalone but knowing the characters so well from the previous books greatly enhanced my enjoyment.
The Drums of War on Amazon UK
My review of The Rags of Time Book 1 of the Thomas Tallant Mysteries.