July 21st, 2020 by Jane Turner
This review of Rags of Time by Michael Ward comes courtesy of a Random Things Blog Tour. Rags of Time was published by Burnaby Press on 15 August 2019 in ebook and paperback.
Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil.
A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.
But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household.
Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables.
Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game.
In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave.
Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase? And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?
Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century.
Wow. Twists?! I felt like I was on the road from Fort William to Arisaig!
I went into this one with few expectations beyond an enjoyable read. And what I got was so much more.
As you’d expect from a book set in 1639, the gentility of the language in Rags of Time is lovely; a breath of fresh air. There was such civility and respectfulness of the language of the era, and Mr Ward has captured it well.
There’s not much description of clothing or houses, or anything really to set scenes – so I found myself using my imagination more than usual; which, in itself, is a good thing. A little more descriptiveness wouldn’t go astray, I think, but Rags of Time gets by without it. (E.g. Edmund’s house ‘on London Bridge’ – for those who don’t know, London Bridge did have houses and shops built along it at one point – like Ponte Vecchio in Florence.) I drew on my own knowledge to fill in the gaps. If there’s one recommendation for future books, a little more descriptiveness would suit.
That said – this one had me hooked.
Thomas Tallant is quite the character, along with his family. I wasn’t sure on Elizabeth, but she grew on me a little – it will be interesting to see how she develops.
The mystery begins with the murder of a well-known merchant and ends with a harrowing boat ride, strolling through politics, sedition, falconry, heresy, war, and more murder on the way.
Mr Ward has certainly done his research – the plot is well backed by actual events, and the characters even become a part of them. And, there are a few possible setups for future books – not mentioning any more here, but I’d be curious if Mr Ward goes with them…
Mr Ward has created intriguing characters, meshed them into (his excellently researched) London history, then let them fly.
I heartily recommend to anyone who likes anything historical, mystery lovers and lovers of that genteel language of old.
This is an excellent effort from a new author – and I’ll be looking out for more from Mr Ward.
Writing has been central to Mike Ward’s professional life. On graduating from university he became a journalist, working in newspapers and for the BBC. He then went into journalism education, teaching and researching journalism practice before becoming head of the UK’s prestigious Journalism School at UCLan. For the last eight years he has run his own content creation company.
Rags of Time is Mike’s debut novel. Its sequel is due to be published late in 2020.
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