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. Recommended for fans of Andrew Taylor, CJ Sansom and SJ Parris.
What did I think?
Never has historical fiction been so fast-paced; Rags of Time is as gripping as a modern-day thriller and I positively raced through this magnificent debut. I loved the characters, the story and the setting and I'm delighted that there is a sequel.
Set prior to the English Civil War, there is an air of unrest in England and the tension is captured perfectly in the book. The tension is ramped up even further by a series of mysterious deaths that lead the authorities to the Tallant house. Young spice merchant Tom is innocent but as the evidence mounts up against him he must fight to prove his innocence before the net closes in.
Michael Ward's writing is spectacular; he really brings 17th century London to life with his vivid descriptions of all of the sights, sounds and smells. I could almost hear the chatter, feel the hustle and bustle and smell the intriguing fruits and spices brought back from various expeditions around the globe. There's nothing dry or dusty about this fantastic piece of historical fiction; it's thrilling, gripping and entertaining from start to finish.
I can't wait to read more about the wonderful Tallant family and see how Tom's relationship with Elizabeth Seymour progresses. Elizabeth is a very unusual character in what is very much a man's world with her love of tobacco, astronomy and codebreaking. I wasn't sure of her motivations at first but she really proves invaluable to Tom in his quest to unmask the real killer.
I really can't recommend Rags of Time highly enough, even if you don't usually read historical fiction I think you will find it fast-paced, intriguing and gripping. I certainly couldn't put it down and that's definitely the sign of a good book in my opinion. Well worth every single one of the five stars I have awarded; whether you're a fan of historical fiction or crime thrillers, Rags of Time is an absolute must read. It's simply outstanding!
Many thanks to Michael Ward for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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