Murder on High Holborn

Susanna Gregory. Sphere (IPG dist.), $29.95 (448p) ISBN 978-1-84744-433-2

British author Gregory solidifies her status as one of the best historical mystery writers around with this suspenseful and atmospheric whodunit set in 1665 England, the ninth starring intelligencer Thomas Chaloner (after 2013’s Murder in St. James’s Park). Chaloner, who works for the lord chancellor, has to deal with yet another uprising against the unpopular Charles II—this one by religious fanatics known as the Fifth Monarchists. Meanwhile, spymaster Joseph Williamson asks him to solve the murder of Paul Ferine, who served the king as groom of the robes. Weeks before Ferine was smothered to death in a brothel, he cast a horoscope predicting a “grave misfortune.” The devastating, and mysterious, sinking of the flagship HMS London, with the loss of hundreds of lives, raises the stakes in an entry notable for an intricate and surprising plot. Dry humor, especially in exchanges between Chaloner and his spendthrift wife, Hannah, a lousy cook, leaven the grim storyline. Agent: Euan Thorneycroft, A.M. Heath & Company (U.K.). (July)