- The Last Protector, by Andrew Taylor. HarperCollins. $32.99.
The Last Protector is the fourth in multi-award winning author Andrew Taylor's series of crime novels set in Restoration England, and the next episode in the lives of his two protagonists, James Marwood, a government agent whose father was a Parliamentarian and Cat Lovett, daughter of a regicide.
In London in 1668, a plot is developing to undermine the monarchy and give the King's advisor, the Duke of Buckingham more power. Lord Arlington, Secretary of State and his undersecretary, Joseph Williamson are determined to reveal the Duke's treachery.
James Marwood is tasked with watching Buckingham and his associates, the villainous and vicious Mr Veal and Roger Durell.
Cat has married Simon Hakesby, an elderly architect for personal and financial security.
She is dismayed when Elizabeth Cromwell, the granddaughter of Oliver, the Great Protector, contacts her.
They had played together at Whitehall as children, but Cat wants to forget that part of her life. Her husband, however, is delighted.
Hakesby, like many others, has not forgotten the Great Protector who " had been a godly man, whose armies had made England feared and respected across Europe . . . [they] remembered only that and forgot that Oliver had also been a tyrant more ruthless and more absolute in his rule than the King he had replaced".
Richard Cromwell, Elizabeth's father and the Last Protector of England, even though he had only lasted in the position for nine months, has secretly returned to England from exile to retrieve treasure his mother has hidden for him.
Financially destitute and desperate, Cromwell asks Hakesby to help him locate the treasure buried under Whitehall.
However, Buckingham learns of Cromwell's return and, realising that "the name of Cromwell was still powerful: a reminder of past glories and a rallying point for those with present grievances", promises Cromwell a pension in exchange for support for his treachery.
At this point the two plotlines converge and once again Marwood and Cat find their lives in danger in a story of treason, intrigue, rioting apprentices, brothels and Jacobean sewers.
Taylor is particularly adept at interweaving real historical figures with his own.
It is, however, the period detail that impresses, both in terms of relationships of the time, and physical setting.
There are vivid descriptions of the streets and palaces of London and the daily lives of its inhabitants from the King to the unfortunate Ferrus, who cleans the sewers.
Taylor makes the past come to life.