Death in St James's Park

Susanna Gregory. Sphere (IPG, dist.), $29.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-84744-434-9

Gregory has never been better than in this stellar eighth novel featuring 17th-century spy Thomas Chaloner (after The Piccadilly Plot). Chaloner is on the outs with his boss, the Earl of Clarendon, who serves the crown as Lord Chancellor; the earl, mourning the loss of his son, has appointed someone else to perform his duties. With rumors of endemic corruption in the Post Office and heightened political tension roiling the capital, Chaloner is shunted away from the main action and assigned to investigate the killing of the King's birds in St James's Park. The animals were poisoned by an extremely potent toxin and the intelligencer's probe ends up overlapping with areas out of his jurisdiction. Things heat up after the alert secret agent notices an abandoned cart full of valuable wood near the Post Office, and manages to shout a warning moments before it explodes—saving many lives, and adding another mystery for him to solve. Intrigue, detection, and action are blended perfectly with plot elements drawn from historical details that make the era come to life. Agent: Euan Thorneycroft
A.M. Heath & Company Ltd (U.K.). (May)