The Black Friar by S G MacLean

the-black-friar1655, London, and Oliver Cromwell rules the country. Not everyone is desperately pleased about it, and threats abound from all directions. Parliament, the Army, huge swathes of the general populace… but Damian Seeker aka the Seeker, um, seeks out threats to preserve Cromwell’s power.

In the middle of a rebellious plot, a body is discovered. At first, it is thought to be that of an old Dominican friar, bricked up in Blackfriars monastery. But when Seeker sees the body, he knows differently – the body is that of one of Seeker’s colleagues in the fight to protect Cromwell.

What secret caused him to be killed in such a way? Is it connected to the children who have been going missing across the city? And can Seeker find a murderer in a city full of rebels?

First off, I should say that you really must read The Seeker first. Due to the number of recurring characters, if you read the first book after this one, you could possibly spot the murderer much more easily. And also… to be honest, I thought the first one was a better book.

Not that this is a bad book. As a depiction of the unrest in the seventeenth century, this is a compelling read, with plots a-plenty and well-rounded characters. Notably Seeker himself gets considerably more fleshed out this time round and we get more of a feeling what’s going on inside his head.

But as a mystery, it’s a bit disappointing, in part due to the multiple plot strands that pull the reader (and Seeker) away from the central mystery, but it’s fairly prosaic. After the extremely clever idea at the heart of The Seeker, this one just feels a little too straightforward. I think I see the idea that the writer was going for, but it’s a difficult one to pull off and I don’t think they hit the mark here.

So, as an historical novel, this book is Recommended, but if you’re just coming for the mystery rather than the history, then I’d recommend the first in the series instead.

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