Thank you to Caitlin Raynor at Headline Books for a stunning hardback copy of book one of a new historical fiction series about Daniel Pursglove. I haven’t read any of Karen Maitland’s books before but I must admit that the setting of Bristol, just down the M4 from home, found me putting this to the top of my reading pile. The hardback book will be published tomorrow, 1st April, in the UK and is also available as an ebook and audiobook.
1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.
In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.
For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.
As regular readers of my blog know, I do read a mixture of genres including historical fiction, although the majority of the books I read tend to be modern history, i.e from 1900. This novel took me much further back in time, to the England ruled by King James I, after many years of Elizabethan rule.
Having studied the Tudors many years ago, I was aware of how Catholicism had been banned and the new Church of England established by King Henry VIII. This book looks at how the fear of Catholic spies corrupting the people results in Daniel Pursglove being sent on a secret mission to Bristol, a city recently devastated by a huge tidal wave.
KJ Maitland’s writing is stunning, and brings the era to life well (or slightly too well if you don’t enjoy reading about gruesome deaths). I found myself caught up in the story within the first few pages and I was pleased to have the time to continue reading uninterrupted whilst other members of my family watched an international football match on the TV.
Life in 1606 sounded dark and unpleasant, with danger lurking on every corner. Fear and superstition, disease and malnutrition, and now a deadly tidal wave, had devastated the port of Bristol. Would this be the perfect place for Catholic spies to hide?
Daniel has been given a mission but quickly finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery which may be linked to his mission. We start to find out more about why Daniel had found himself in prison at the start of the book and what skills have kept him alive.
There are some heartbreaking scenes in this book, including the mob attacking the family who had the only house left standing in one street. We hear about fake news now, but this story shows how this isn’t a new problem.
I enjoyed the historical details and the mysteries involved, and I hope that we get to meet Daniel Pursglove in future books by KJ Maitland.
Karen Maitland, who also writes as KJ Maitland, lives in the beautiful county of Devon and has a doctorate in psycholinguists.
Her new historical thriller, ‘The Drowned City’, is set in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, in 1606 and is the first of a new series featuring the character, Daniel Pursglove. For this Jacobean series, Karen is writing under the name of KJ Maitland,
Her first stand alone medieval thriller was ‘Company of Liars’, was set at the time of the Black Death in 1348. This was followed by The Owl Killers’, ‘The Gallows Curse’, ‘Falcons of Fire and Ice’, ‘The Vanishing Witch’, ‘The Raven’s Head,’ ‘The Plague Charmer’ and ‘A Gathering of Ghosts’, published by Penguin and Headline.
Karen is also one of six historical crime writers known as the Medieval Murderers – Philip Gooden, Susannah Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight and Ian Morson – who together write joint murder-mystery novel, including ‘The Sacred Stone’, ‘Hill of Bones’ and ‘The First Murder’, ‘The False Virgin’ and ‘The Deadliest Sin’ published by Simon & Schuster.