A Conspiracy of Violence: Chaloner's First Exploit in Restoration London

Susanna Gregory, Author . Time Warner U.K. $24.95 (502p) ISBN 978-0-316-73110-2

At the start of this rapidly paced if sometimes confusing first in a new historical series from Gregory (A Deadly Brew ), ex-government spy Thomas Chaloner returns from a mission in Holland after Charles II takes the throne in 1660. When spymaster John Thurloe's post-boy, Charles Stewart, is abruptly slain, Chaloner, hoping to impress his former boss, chases the lad's killers through London's raunchiest slums, eventually landing in White Hall, where the king is holding his annual "Touching Ceremony" to heal the sick. Amid England's worsening relations with Holland, Chaloner's Dutch girlfriend, Metje, incriminates him, and he finds himself at an "important crossroads," with options of spying for the king, hunting rumored treasure buried in the Tower or returning home to Buckinghamshire to live quietly. Some obvious clues and implausible coincidences make the resolution of his many challenges less than satisfying in this overly complicated mix of history, suspense and romance. (July)