The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean

The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean was published in 2016 and it’s the second book in the author’s Damian Seeker series which begins with The Seeker.

The date is January 1655, the seventh year of Oliver Cromwell’s ‘reign’ and the people are discontented because for ordinary folks things are no better than they had been under the rule of the Stuarts. Seeker is having to deal with rebellious Royalist plots from abroad and disgruntled one time supporters of Cromwell.

Fanatical religious sects are springing up, most of them are based on the book of Daniel and they’re all more than a bit strange. It seems like desperation to me, but it is all very authentic and historically correct.

When a perfectly preserved body in the clothing of a Dominican friar is found to have been bricked up in the crumbling Blackfriars Monastery some people think it’s some kind of miracle, but Damian Seeker knows better. He recognises the body as  a man who had been working for him, and the reason the victim’s body is still fairly fresh is because he hasn’t been dead long, so it’s no miracle.

Some children have been disappearing from the streets of London, is it something to do with the murdered man? As Captain of Cromwell’s Guard Damian Seeker is kept very busy in this one, he’s well able to see that most of the ordinary people are actually worse off under Cromwell, or certainly no better off.

Shona (S.G.) MacLean has a PhD in 16th and 17th century history so presumably she gets the details correct. It’s interesting to see that women could have a prominent/ leading position as preachers in religious sects, something that seems to have gone backwards in more recent times.  If I’m nit-picking I find it unlikely that so many poorer women in these books are able to read and write, but often it’s necessary for the plot so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.  I’m really enjoying this series and I think I’m learning quite a lot about the era.





4 thoughts on “The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean

  1. Many of your blog posts bring back vivid memories. Synchronicity, perhaps, or apophenia. Your mention of Dominicans took me back to my elementary school days and the Dominican abbey to which it was affiliated. For some odd reason, I became friendly with the priests in their distinctive black-and-white habits, and the mysterious “OP” after their names. In those days I knew nothing about the Inquisition and was in constant awe of the magnificent sermons of the priests.

    I even offered to serve as an altar boy at pre-dawn masses in the priests’ chapel at the rear of the abbey, off limits for most people. This was before Vatican II, when masses were still in Latin.

    My elementary school was closed and converted into a Sikh Temple. Years later it was demolished and is now a modern office block. How times have changed.

    Getting back to the Black Friar, the literate poor women do strike me as odd. The daughters of wealthy parents received private educations and were often fluent in three classical and at least two modern languages. Those not so fortunate remained illiterate, I think, until at least the middle of the 19th century.

    • Janusz,
      I admit that I had to look up apophenia. When I was about 7 I was taken to a mass by a cousin whose mother, my aunt had ‘turned’ and married a Catholic. It was in Latin and my cousin thought I should be seriously impressed, but her face fell when I asked her what it all meant and she had to say that she didn’t know! The very modern seminary near where I grew up closed down for lack of students.,_Cardross. For a short time it was a fabulous building but is now a ruin. What did the “OP” stand for?
      Free schools were set up in 1890 I think in Scotland, and children had to attend them. I’ve been told that illiteracy in England for females as recently as the 1930s was fairly common, but it wasn’t so bad in Scotland. I have no idea if that was the case though. We certainly had very literate farm workers in the 18th century in Scotland.

  2. OP = Ordo Praedicatorum = Order of Preachers, their official name. “Dominicans” comes from their founder, St Dominic de Guzman.

    • Janusz,
      Thank you, I did do Latin at school, it has been handy in gardening, but I don’t recall the word praedicatorum.

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