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by Susanna Gregory
Sphere, January 2008
512 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847440622

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE BUTCHER OF SMITHFIELD is Susanna Gregory’s thirdbook in the extremely addictive Thomas Chaloner series. In this latest exploit, Chaloner returns from a mission in Spain and Portugal to find a very different London to the one that he left. There is a major rivalry between printed newssheets and handwritten pamphlets, the Lord Chancellor is refusingto pay him the money that he is owed, and, worst of all, Maylord, a friend, is found dead – reputedly from eating green cucumbers. Chaloner, requested by the Lord Chancellor to investigate the death of a solicitor, soon learns that that is no isolated death, since he also died of cucumbers. Will Chaloner be able to pull all the threads together and solve the mystery?

As ever, Gregory’s mix of fact and fiction will go down a treat. She takes historical facts and real people and moulds them into a complex narrative mixing murder, mystery and wry humour, not to mention the extremely atmospheric setting that she creates of London in 1663.THE BUTCHER OF SMITHFIELD is certainly not a novel that could be devoured in one sitting, owing to its detail and extensive cast of characters, and it deserves to be read slowly, in order to appreciate Gregory’s skill.

She develops the characters in the story well – we continue to learn more about Thomas Chaloner and she provides a love interest for his friend, William Leybourne. Other recurring characters pop up from time to time and her creation of a criminal kingpin, the eponymous Butcher of Smithfield, is a great touch, since it permits her to throw in numerous twists and turns, as Chaloner gets ever closer to the truth. Some of the plot twists, however, are a little obvious and experienced mystery readers will have a clear idea of where they are going, but this does not detract from the novel as a whole.

In sum, THE BUTCHER OF SMITHFIELD is another triumph and reinforces Susanna Gregory’s reputation as one of the best writers of historical mysteries working in

that field today.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, March 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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