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May 1665. With winter passed, Mercia Blakewood is at last headed back to England from America, hoping to leave behind the shadow cast by death and heartache. She expects a welcome from the King considering her earlier mission at his behalf, but the reception she receives after her long voyage home could hardly be called warm.
With the country now at war with the Dutch, the Crown has decided that Mercia is an asset to be used once again. More manipulation lies ahead as Mercia must accept a clandestine role at the heart of the glittering and debauched royal court to unmask a spy and traitor.
Cathy Johnson –
Traitor is my first experience of a book by David Hingley but put me down as hooked! Although I haven't read the previous two books in the Mercia Blakewood series ' Birthright and Puritan ' it certainly didn't affect my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I thought the author did a great job of providing the right amount of background information for readers new to the series without boring those who have read the previous books. It's a fine balance to strike but I thought the author nailed it and actually there were some enticing nuggets of information about events in the earlier books that have definitely made me want to go back and read them.
The setting for Traitor is the court of Charles II. It's a place of intrigue, scandal, gossip, clandestine affairs and power play around the succession since Charles is without a legitimate heir. It's also a place of artifice, where people are adept at playing parts. The war with the Dutch not only endangers the security of the realm but has implications for important commercial interests, including those who trade in goods, including in human form. There is also a need to maintain the delicate balance of other powers and potential allies in Europe. 'One day, perhaps, we shall cease our arguments with Europe, but that day is not yet come.' (Yes, I laughed at that bit too!).
When it is discovered that vital information is being leaked to the enemy, it becomes essential to track down the spy, code name Virgo. Enter Mercia Blakewood, recently returned from America where she performed a valuable service for the King. With the prospect of regaining ownership of the family estate (falsely claimed by her uncle) dangled in front of her, Mercia is persuaded to take on the task of uncovering the spy's identity. Mercia makes a terrifically likeable leading character ' as well as a caring mother, she's determined, plucky, independent-minded, resourceful albeit a little rash about her own safety at times. As her servant and ally, Nicholas, observes, 'Because you can't resist a puzzle.' Widowed, she's also a little lonely. 'You are strong, Mercia. The bravest woman I've known. But there's no shame in admitting it's hard to live alone.' Mercia's beauty means she's not short of suitors but is their interest in getting close to her merely personal?
The plot is full of twists and turns as various individuals come under suspicion and Mercia tries to unravel the complex web of alliances and loyalties. I really welcomed the Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book to help keep track of the different characters and inter-relationships. Along the way, Mercia finds she has powerful enemies but also potential allies ' if she could only work out which was which! In addition, a figure from her past emerges to claim repayment of a debt that will involve difficult decisions for Mercia.
Traitor is a cracking historical mystery, full of colourful characters, with an intriguing story line and an evocative sense of the period in which it is set. A woman involved in espionage in the 17th century? Well, why not? There is the real life example of Aphra Behn, after all. I really enjoyed Traitor and would enthusiastically recommend it for fans of historical mysteries.
I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers Allison & Busby