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William Falkland is a dead man.
Falkland fought for the King. Now, he awaits execution. Yet when he is led out of Newgate Prison with a sack over his head, he is not taken to the gallows, but to Oliver Cromwell himself.
Now more than ever Cromwell needs a man of conscience. Mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp of his New Model Army and, in return for his freedom, Falkland must uncover the truth.
As he delves into the troubled world of the resting soldiers, Falkland unearths secrets so dark he struggles to prove their existence. Surrounded yet alone, the noose around Falkland’s neck begins to tighten.
Is his luck about to run out?
Historical fiction is pretty much uncharted territory for me, I’ve never really been one for history, but thanks to Mr Deas I am now a happy little convert!
The year is 1645, and the story begins with William Falkland – a Cavalier for King Charles I – imprisoned for disobeying the King’s orders. Falkland believes he is being taken to the gallows, but in fact is taken to none other than Oliver Cromwell himself. Cromwell recruits Falkland to investigate some suspicious suicides that have been occurring within the New Model Army camp. And thus the mystery begins…
I think there’s a lot to be said for first person narrative – I’m a big fan of this writing style and it almost always guarantees my immediate interest. I must admit I worried initially about how much of Ye Olde English I would be subjected to – people of yore tended to go all around the houses to say something didn’t they?! – but I actually really enjoyed the prose. There was enough to add to the authenticity, but not so much that I needed the Rosetta Stone!
And talking of authenticity, Deas has a real skill for scene-setting. I felt that I had been dragged right back to the 17th Century and it was a fantastic trip! I truly felt the chill of the harsh English winter and its knee-deep snow. My nose wrinkled at the filth encrusted people living in a time when hygiene was most certainly not a top priority. My stomach turned at what passed for a decent meal – and what didn’t but was eaten anyway! And I physically winced during the extensively detailed violent scenes.
But above all, I was most engrossed with the characters in this story. Our protagonist, Falkland, was a bad soldier but a good man. His depth was first-class. A man who hates himself for holding onto the slightest morsel of hope during such desperate times. A man who clings to the memory of his family and the hope he will one day be reunited with them. A man of duty and conscience, who will disobey his own King for what is right and just. A man who berates himself for caring for a woman who is not his wife. A man who will risk his life to do what is right by the memory of young soldiers whom he has never met. Basically, I loved the guy! Other characters – Cromwell, Fairfax, Warbeck, etc. – were all each as detailed as the next. This story had some real nasty people in it – but not your panto bad guys; these were real everyday men, mostly living very ordinary lives for the time – and they were terrifying!
Deas has delivered an intriguing, drama-laden, heart-thumping crime thriller with historical accuracy and authenticity. I found myself sorely disappointed at the last page; not with the ending, but that it had ended! Then, lo and behold, I discover that The Royalist was merely the first instalment in the William Falkland series, and a very big smile returned to my face.
My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.