THE JOHN GREY SERIES

 

 

The John Grey historical mystery series is set in the 1650s and 1660s. It features lawyer and spy, John Grey, and his childhood friend and accomplice (in various capacities) Aminta Clifford. "Fire", the fourth book in the series, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger.

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A Cruel Necessity (John Grey #1)

 

Summer 1657 - The theatres are padlocked. Christmas has been cancelled. The unloved English Republic is eight years old. Though Cromwell's joyless grip n power appears immovable,many still look to Charles Stuart's dissolute and threadbare court-in-exile and some are prepared to risk their lives plotting restoration. When the bloody corpse of a royalist spy is found on the dungheap of a small Essex village, why is the local magistarte so reluctant to investigate? John Grey, a young lawyer with  no clients finds himself alone in believing that the murdered man deserves justice. 

A Masterpiece of Corruption
(John Grey #2)

It is December 1657.

 

John Grey, at his cramped desk in Lincoln's Inn, is attempting to resume his legal career. A mysterious message from a 'Mr SK' tempts him out into the snowy streets of London and to what he believes will be a harmless diversion from his studies.

 

But Mr SK's letter proves to have been intended for somebody else entirely and Grey unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a plot to assassinate the Lord Protector - a plot about which he now knows more than it is safe to know. Can he both prevent the murder and (of greater immediate relevance) save his own skin? Both the Sealed Knot and Cromwell's Secretary of State, John Thurloe believe he is on their side, but he is unsure that either is on his. As somebody is kind enough to point out to him: 'You are a brave man, Grey. The life of a double agent can be exciting but very short.'

The Plague Road

1665, and the Great Plague has London in its grip. Where better, then, to hide a murdered man than among the corpses on their way to the Plague pit?

 

When a supposed Plague victim is found with a knife in his back, John Grey, now a successful lawyer, is called in to investigate. The dead man was known to be carrying a compromising letter from the Duke of York to the French ambassador. Now the letter has vanished and Secretary of State Lord Arlington wants it.

 

But Arlington is not the only one trying to recover the letter. Somebody has killed once trying to obtain it - and is prepared to kill again. Grey must set off on a journey through Plague-ravaged England to fulfil his commission and keep himself safe from his enemies - if the Plague doesn't get him first...

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Fire (John Grey #4)

1666. London has been destroyed by fire and its citizens are looking for somebody, preferable foreign, to blame. Only the royal Court, with its strong Catholic sympathies, is trying to dampen down the post-conflaguration hysteria. Then, inconveniently, a Frenchman admits to having started it together with an accomplice, whom he says he has subsequently killed.

 

John Grey is tasked by Secretary of State, Lord Arlington, with proving conclusively that the self-confessed fire-raiser is lying. Though Grey agrees with Arlington that the Frenchman must be mad, he is increasingly perplexed at how much he knows. And a body has been discovered that appears in every way to match the description of the dead accomplice.

 

Grey's investigations take him and his companion, Aminta, into the dangerous and still smoking ruins of the old City. And somebody out there - somebody at the very centre of power in England - would prefer it if they didn't live long enough to conclude their work...

The Bleak Midwinter (John Grey #5)

1668. John Grey is now a Justice of the Peace, living in the manor house he has inherited on his mother's death and married to Aminta.

 

As the village is cut off from the rest of the world by a heavy snowfall, George Barwell is discovered dead in the woods. Grey is called to examine the horribly disfigured body amidst the rumours that the attack has been the work of the Devil as the victim had been cursed by reputed witch Alice Mardike just days before his violent death.

 

As Barwell's father-in-law leads the villagers into kidnapping Alice and throwing her into the millpond to see if she floats as a witch or drowns as an innocent woman, Grey agrees to investigate the murder: his main suspect is the very man leading the witch hunt.

 

But if Grey can't solve the mystery of George Barwell's death within a week, Mardike will be tried for witchcraft - and the sentence has already been decided . . .

Death of a Shipbuilder  (John Grey #6)

 

John Grey is visited at his London office by Thomas Cade, a shipbuilder, who tells Grey he has evidence that Samuel Pepys is taking substantial bribes in his position at the Naval Office. Grey sends him on his way, telling him he has little chance against such a powerful man as Pepys - and then the following morning Cade's stabbed body is found in the grounds of Lincoln's Inn

Later that day Grey meets up with his benefactor Lord Arlington who tells him the king himself wants Grey to investigate corruption in the Naval Office - and it occurs to Grey that by dismissing Cade to his death, he has now lost his best witness and informant. He begins his investigation by questioning the dead man's wife - who it transpires was having an affair with Pepys... as were a great many other ladies. And as the investigation becomes increasingly hampered while the Court closes ranks and threats made against his life, Grey begins to suspect that Arlington's agenda is less to do with reform of the navy and more to do with gaining an advantage over his rivals at Court ...

Too Much of Water (John Grey #7)

 

Eastwold, 1670, and local legend tells how on a still night, if you stand on the beach there, you can still hear the bells of the drowned church of St James tolling mournfully beneath the waves...

Eastwold, once one of the greatest ports in England, has been fighting a losing battle with the sea ever since it was granted its charter by King John. Bit by bit the waves have eaten the soft cliffs on which it stands, until only a handful of houses remain. But still it sends two MPs to Parliament and rich men from London are prepared to pay well for the votes of the dozen or so remaining burgesses of the town.

The voters are looking forward to a profitable by-election, only for the Admiralty's candidate, the unpopular Admiral Digges, to end up in a fishing net, every bit as drowned as his prospective constituency. Is it an accident, as the coroner has ruled, or has Digges been murdered, as the Admiralty fears? John Grey, Justice of the Peace and former spy, receives a request from the authorities to uncover the truth. 

Hot on the heels of Grey is Samuel Pepys, sent by his master the Duke of York to stand for the watery seat in place of Digges. He also brings Grey clarification of what kinds of truth the Duke is happy for him to uncover and what he should ignore. With spring edging cautiously towards the windswept east coast, Grey starts to question the remaining residents and other well-paid officials of the non-existent town. He meets with suspicion from the voters and polite obstruction from Pepys. Will Grey uncover the murderer before the last of the town vanishes beneath the waves? As one of inhabitants warns him: 'This is a troubled place, Sir John. It is a dead town. Can you not feel that? Have you not seen the bones that litter the beach? It is a dead town that cries to be buried and forgotten.