cover image The Westminster Poisoner

The Westminster Poisoner

Susanna Gregory, . . Sphere, $24.95 (472pp) ISBN 978-1-84744-100-3

Gregory's excellent fourth Thomas Chaloner adventure set in Restoration London (after 2008's The Butcher of Smithfield ) effortlessly blends authentic historical details with plenty of red herrings. Chaloner, the chief spy for England's Lord Chancellor, the earl of Clarendon, is on uncertain ground because of his past support for Oliver Cromwell. The earl increases the pressure by giving Chaloner a tight deadline to solve a series of poisonings that have claimed the lives of two government clerks. Convinced that another clerk, Greene, is responsible, the earl orders Chaloner to prove Greene's guilt, despite the spy's misgivings. Gregory provides a number of false endings, a classic golden age of detection plot device rarely used these days, but which, in the hands of a skilled writer, makes every word count. Gregory is also the author of the Matthew Bartholomew series set in medieval Cambridge (The Devil's Disciples , etc.). (June)