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by Susanna Gregory
Sphere, January 2011
352 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847442536

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the latest of the Thomas Chaloner novels, set just a few months after the events of A MURDER ON LONDON BRIDGE, we see the Lord Chancellor's spy caught in a maelstrom of unexpected situations. The novel begins with his marriage to Hannah, an event that had been on the cards but appeared unlikely and one almost spoiled by the murder of an uninvited guest during the ceremony. At the same time, Chaloner is rocked by the arrival in London of the Dutch delegation in the hope of averting a war between England and the Netherlands, as that delegation contains old friends and old enemies. When his former brother-in-law, a member of the delegation, is found dead in the Thames, Chaloner begins his investigations with nothing less than all-out war at stake if he fails.

THE BODY IN THE THAMES will delight readers who have been longing to hear more about Chaloner's former life. We know from previous novels that he spied on the Netherlands under Cromwell, but apart from a few brief lines, very little ink has been spilled writing about those days. I had expected Gregory to write a prequel at some point, but here she brings the Dutch to London and gives Chaloner a chance to interact with them on his home turf. We learn more about his late wife and family and we see him struggle when accused of having divided loyalties.

Gregory skilfully paints a picture of a parched England calling for war with the Netherlands, hubristically confident of its military prowess. As ever, the plot is complicated and, at times, difficult to follow. For the first time that I recall in one of her novels, I found the denouement to be disappointing and hard to believe, as the identity of the mysterious Falcon was finally revealed.

Gregory's plot twists are usually plausible but this one, for some reason, did not ring true. If you can get past this, however, the rich picture of London life and the excellent development of Chaloner's life combine to make another enjoyable novel.

Luke Croll is an editor and translator who is based in Nairobi.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, February 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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