Death Of A Shipbuilder (2020) by L C Tyler

Sir John Grey has briefly returned to London to sort out a few pieces of business in his law office. He just wants to return to his estate in Essex, but the visit of the shipbuilder John Cade soon puts paid to that. Cade claims to have evidence that Samuel Pepys is taking bribes to provide favours from the Naval Office. Grey has no plans, however, to return to his life as a spy working under Lord Arlington… until Cade is killed outside of his offices and the King himself (via Arlington) asks Grey to investigate the shipyards.

As Grey begins his investigation, he finds that corruption is rife, and it goes far beyond simple embezzlement. A conspiracy is beginning to threatens to upset the Royal Court itself.

Reading is tricky at the moment. So many distractions abound – an incompetent government, an ever-present pandemic and after months effectively in lockdown, returning to the classroom is a challenge. It’s sometimes much easier with downtime to pick up a games controller and start killing goblins than to get stuck into a good book. But it helps a lot when your favourite authors bring out new books – and even more when they send you a copy…

This is the sixth John Grey novel from L C (Len) Tyler, and this was exactly what I needed. While the series is less overtly funny than Len’s Ethelred and Elsie series, there is a fine line of wit threaded through it, primarily from John Grey’s narration, and his dialogue with his wife, the playwright Aminta. I was a little concerned that she wasn’t going to show up in this book, as she starts off back in Essex, but her latest play brings her into the action.

While this is more of a historical thriller than a mystery – there is the question as to who killed Cade, but it seems less important than the machinations on display – it’s a wonderfully entertaining one. While I doubt many people will be fooled by the switch of loyalties late in the day, Grey’s resolution to his precarious situation is both unexpected and ingenious.

What is ultimately chilling about the whole thing though is that while nothing in the plot is so odd that it couldn’t have happened, as per the author’s afterword, almost all of it actually did. Len has used these events to produce another outstanding historical tale. This series of historical crime tales is definitely one that should be on your must-read list.

Death Of A Shipbuilder is out now in hardback and ebook from Constable. Many thanks to Len for the review copy.


  1. For a moment, I thought Tyler decided to have Elsie and Ethelred investigate a shipbuilder’s murder… But it makes sense for this to be a title of a Jack Grey mystery. 🧐

    I recall a recent remark on your post reviewing the Coffee and Crime box that you haven’t used the phrase ‘…this is Highly Recommended’ for some time. Is it because you haven’t found many books that would make the cut – or are you taking a different approach to reviewing? Sounds like this title could make the cut – and so I’m suspecting the latter? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    • If Ethelred and Elsie were involved, it’d be Death of a Herring-Boatbuilder

      And no, I stopped saying “Highly Recommended” and the like because I got the impression that people were using it like a score – Highly Recommended= 5/5, Recommended = 4/5 etc and I’m not a fan of scores, cryptic or otherwise. Just fancied a change, there are many titles since then that would be highly recommended.


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