The Seeker by S.G. MacLean

The Seeker by S.G. MacLean was published in 2015 and it’s the first in her series which is set in Oliver Cromwell’s England.

The setting is London 1654 and there are spies everywhere, especially in the coffee houses that have become popular. Damian Seeker is an Intelligence Officer in Oliver Cromwell’s government and everyone is terrified of him. If you’re arrested by Seeker, it’ll probably be the end for you, his men are brutal.

It’s the sixth year of the English Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell is king in all but name. He’s just not quite brave or mad enough to have himself crowned and all of the hopes for a more equal society have come to nothing. The Royalists haven’t given up their hopes of reinstating the monarchy and Cromwell lives under the threat of assassination.

But it’s one of Cromwell’s captains who is murdered. John Winter had been a popular officer in the New Model Army, and a young lawyer is found standing over his still bleeding body and holding a knife. It seems obvious that the lawyer is guilty, but The Seeker isn’t convinced, and he is honest enough not to want just anyone as the culprit, it must be the guilty person who pays the price.

Slavery comes into this book with Londoners being grabbed off the streets, sold off and transported to plantations in Barbados. Even children were abducted. The poet John Milton makes an appearance as a spy for Cromwell, something that I certainly didn’t know about, but apparently he was.

This was a good murder mystery with plenty of atmosphere and I think there’s also a lot of history which isn’t often written about. Oliver Cromwell isn’t a popular figure, even among Republicans. It’s quite surprising that the Commonwealth of England lasted as long as it did – just over ten years in total – because just about everything was banned, including Christmas, theatres, bright clothing and make-up. Such a dismal existence was bound to get people down. After Cromwell’s death his son only lasted nine months in power, then Charles II was invited back from his exile and the monarchy was restored.

However, I’m sure there’s still a lot to be written about in this series, so I hope to be reading the next one The Black Friar – soonish.