cover image Act of Oblivion

Act of Oblivion

Robert Harris. Harper, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-324800-7

Harris (Munich) again turns a historical event into a canny page-turner. Following the restoration of the Stuart Dynasty to the throne of England, King Charles II and his court seek revenge for the execution of the monarch’s father, Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649. The task of identifying and locating those involved falls to Richard Nayler, “one of those shadows who move, anonymous, along the private passages and through the council chambers of every nation in every age.” Nayler has a personal grudge against his quarry; his wife died giving birth to their stillborn son after Cromwell’s soldiers arrested him for participating in an illegal prayer service. After Nayler tracks down the death warrant ordering Charles I’s beheading, he devotes himself to finding the 13 signatories still at large. The bulk of the narrative focuses on his Javert-like search for Edward Whalley and his son-in-law William Goffe. The fugitives live desperate lives in New England, constantly fearful of betrayal even from those who shelter them. Harris humanizes the hunter and the hunted, and brings to life an obscure chapter in colonial American history. This further burnishes Harris’s reputation as a talented author of historical suspense. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)