‘This is a troubled place, Sir John. It is a dead town. Can you not feel that? Have you not seen the bones that litter the beach? It is a dead town that cries to be buried and forgotten.’
1670, and Sir John Grey has come to Eastwold to uncover the truth about the death of Admiral Digges, the Admiralty’s candidate for the upcoming Eastwold by-election. It was deemed an accident, but it rapidly becomes clear that it is more complicated than that. It also becomes clear that plenty of people are more than happy with the coroner’s verdict of accidental death.
Eastwold is dying, with the town falling more and more into the sea every year. As the autumn winds sweep in, and the churchyard losing bodies to the waves every day, Grey finds himself blocked at every turn in his hunt for a killer. But when a second death occurs, it becomes a race against time to find a murderer before the evidence is washed away forever…
First of all, an apology to Len Tyler. He was kind enough to send me a copy of Too Much Of Water which was published last week, but with the start of term getting in the way – along with Brian Flynn Day 2021 –the blog has been something of a low priority, in part because I’ve had so little time for reading. Spare time is at an absolute minimum at the moment and with all sorts of typical back to school issues buzzing round my head, finding a quiet time for reading and blogging is next to impossible. But at least my home isn’t falling into the sea, my local elections don’t take place on a boat in a storm-tossed sea, and my local politician isn’t some corrupt individual after personal fame rather than wanting to work for the good of the people. Well, two out of three of those isn’t bad…
This is the seventh John Grey mystery and his status quo, after jumping years between the settings of the books, seems to have settled, as a magistrate in Essex who is still the unwitting agent of his former London spymasters – it is only when he arrives in Eastwold that he realises that there were plenty of other magistrates who didn’t need to have travelled across three counties to investigate the death, and, ideally find the result that will benefit Samuel Pepys the best, not necessarily the truth.
Grey is accompanied by his wife, Aminta, a poet, whose poem, The Election, intersperses the chapters. Their bantering about Grey’s Puritanism – he supported Cromwell, whereas her father was a Royalist, and while Grey has managed to adapt to the new regime, he isn’t entirely comfortable with it, at least with the dress code.
It’s a great read – you knew I was going to say that, as I’ve read almost all of Len Tyler’s books and the result was always the same. It’s thrilling, it’s witty, it’s a complex mystery and it delves into a part of history that I know next to nothing about. The characters are numerous but distinctive, each adding to the tale, each being viable suspects. Tyler does a great job of subtly making the reader emphasise with Pepys’ situation – while his actions make things worse for Grey in the town, there is a rationale for it that makes you realise how much thought Len has put into his characters. A number of them have effective arcs from beginning to end, and when the dust settles at the end, you still find yourself thinking about what is going to happen to some of them.
I do hope the readers of Len’s Ethelred and Elsie series read this series as well – it is one of the finest series of historical mysteries out there.
Too Much Of Water was released by Little Brown last week in hardback and ebook, and Death Of A Shipbuilder was released in paperback too. What are you waiting for?