A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) by L C Tyler
|A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) by L C Tyler|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A good, light Cromwellian murder mystery as John Grey, the only law student in the village, begins to doubt the evidence of his own eyes after a body is found up the road.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: November 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Essex 1657: Cromwell's Republic is 8 years old. While John Grey sleeps off a good night of drink under the eaves of a cottage, a Royalist spy is murdered down the road. A trainee lawyer, John also enjoys the science of investigation and so starts looking for clues that will lead him to the murderer. Although it's not easy: strange happenings occurred that night and Grey is having trouble persuading others of what he saw. Meanwhile his mother has the perfect match for him. Unfortunately their ideas of perfection differ somewhat!
LC Tyler (Len to his friends) is famous for his Ethelred and Elsie series, lacing suspense-laden murder mystery with humour. In fact it's enchanted many including critics who aren't enchanted that often. (Marcel Berlins of The Times for instance.) Therefore when this author launches a new series it's an event. So, prepare to be excited – event incoming!
A professional pedant, John has reasoned himself out of his former Royalist beliefs and is now on the side of the Commonwealth. However elsewhere in the village old loyalties bubble under the surface as the scars of the Civil War give way to subterfuge and promotion of a hoped for Reformation. This bad feeling isn't helped by the fact that living in the close knit community there are those who have had their lands confiscated and, on a daily basis, watch Cromwell's favourites living in their former homes. Even without a murder, it's a dangerous world that John and his neighbours inhabit, especially those who want to hedge their bets just in case.
As with all good crime thrillers our suspicions flip and flop between a few suspects. In fact we're kept guessing even though we can spot the next victim a mile off. One almost feels as if that's intentional though as Mr Tyler uses our knowledge to heighten the tension. We know who's going to get it but not when and definitely not why.
The backdrop is as carefully thought out as the mystery. We're instantly absorbed by the wonderful characters, many (like innkeeper Ben) almost yokel-like compared to the newly sophisticated John. However he soon realises that academic knowledge is no replacement for experience and he's somewhat green in that department!
And on the subject of green, Aminta is another non-yokel and someone with their eye on John. As the daughter of one of the disenfranchised Royalists she has an eye on restitution and the other eye on John, ably abetted by Mother Grey. John's not fooled though and any minor attraction is seasoned by the thought that Aminta is a bit of a player (to use a modern term).
John's mum is lovely! A canny old bird with a missing husband, she's taken to the dual parental role like a Parliamentarian to a haircut. Mistress Grey is determined to keep her son safe, get him married off and still have time for her hobby. She has to be inventive now that all frivolity is banned - she now gate-crashes funerals for fun.
The historical factoids are well represented including an introduction to the espionage-soaked original Sealed Knot organisation. As for the ending… I usually hate synopses presented as conversation because no one seems to be able to write them without added clunk. But LC does it so well and clunklessly, I forgot my prejudices as I inwardly wallowed, cheered and gasped.
A cracking pace, lively dialogue, wickedly witty one-liners salted with sophistication… Why would we not want more of John Grey? No, I don’t know the answer to that one either!
(Thank you, kind folk at Constable for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy your historical crime with a similar light touch, we heartily recommend Time and Tide by Shirley McKay. If you prefer something with less humour and/or just as rivettingly Civil War era, we also heartily recommend Traitor's Field by Robert Wilton.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) by L C Tyler at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) by L C Tyler at Amazon.com.
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