PlagueBook - 2014
WINNER 2015 — Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel
London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God's vengeance in his heart.
Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men.
But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they've been . . . sacrificed.
Now the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.
From the critics
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It is Restoration England, with a hedonistic King Charles II on the throne. The playhouses have re-opened and for the first time women are allowed to grace the stages. Highwaymen are popularized in romantic ballads, and men are employed as thief-takers to hunt them down. Religious fanatics meet in secret to hatch anti-monarchist plots, and a pestilence strikes fear into the heart of London’s meaner neighbourhoods, as houses are shut up with their occupants still inside to prevent its spread. However, there is a more menacing plague that stalks the streets –a murderer is on the loose, and the manner in which he leaves his victims is nothing short of barbaric.
It is the luck of the highwayman Captain Coke that he happens upon three such victims shortly after their demise, and in his haste to leave the scene he leaves one of his pistols behind. It is found by one Mr. Pitman, a thief-taker who has been on the Captain’s trail for some time, and as he closes in on his quarry, the Captain decides to leave London at once – but not before paying a visit to the actress Lucy Absolute, whose brother was the Captain’s comrade in arms during the English Civil War. Lucy has an errand for him, one that puts him in the path of Sarah Chalker, another actress whose husband is missing. Captain Coke undertakes to help her find him, and find him he does – unfortunately. But before he can give Sarah the bad news he is caught by Pitman – who believes the Captain is also the murderer. Coke manages to make him doubt this, and they begin a tenuous partnership to find the real killer before he strikes again.
Rife with the fast-paced action and the little historic details that really transport a reader, C.C. Humphrey’s latest novel is a thrilling swashbuckling adventure – like Raphael Sabatini’s novels, but with a little more swagger.
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