This is a specialist post about a new literary find for me, courtesy as so often of Norfolk Libraries. There are two novels so far, and I certainly hope there will be more:
FINDING THE BOOKS
I actually came across these books in reverse order, finding and reading The Protector first and then having made a mental note of this author as one to follow up on borrowing The Royalist a few days later. There is a developing trend among authors of historical fiction set in the 16th and 17th centuries using their initials on the front cover rather than a full name (I believe C J Sansom was the first, while S J Parris and S G Maclean are other examples).
THE BACK STORY
These stories are set right at the heart of the English Civil War period, in the 1640s. It is already fairly clear even by the time of the first novel which way the war is going, the question being when the Parlimentarians will win (though the war in question still has over two years to run by the end of the second book, the final outcome is obvious, it is merely Charles I’s stubbornness and arrogance that will prolong the agony).
William Falkland, the character at the heart of both books, is a former Royalist solider who owes his life to Cromwell and therefore cannot refuse when that worthy seeks his assistance. He is also, when not performing dangerous errands at Cromwell’s demand, searching for his wife and family who have disappeared.
The poet John Milton, a man of great importance to the Parliamentarians, is angry because his sister has been abducted and he wants her returned and her abductors caught and punished. Falkland is tasked with bringing this about. The general view of the others involved in the case is that the abductors must be royalists (Milton, portrayed as bad-tempered and arrogant, is particularly determined on this point), but Falkland does not allow himself to be so blinkered, and his investigations ultimately bring home the crime, as part of a much greater crime that is being planned, to a group of extreme anti-royalists.
In this, the first book in the series, Falkland has the task of unravelling a series of deaths by (non-judicial) hanging in Thomas Fairfax’s New Model Army. There are powerful people who do not want him getting to the truth, and at times his life is in considerable danger, but eventually he is able to provide an explanation as to what has been going on, and at the end of the book he is free to resume his search for his wife and children.
I very much enjoyed both of these books, and look forward to reading more about William Falkland’s adventures. If you see a book with the name of S J Deas on the cover pick it up – it will be worth reading.