‘Whispers haunt the walls and treachery darkens the shadows in this captivating historical novel for readers of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London and Kate Mosse.‘
– Traitor in the Ice
[ About the Book ]
Winter, 1607. A man is struck down in the grounds of Battle Abbey, Sussex. Before dawn breaks, he is dead.
Home to the Montagues, Battle has caught the paranoid eye of King James. The Catholic household is rumoured to shelter those loyal to the Pope, disguising them as servants within the abbey walls. And the last man sent to expose them was silenced before his report could reach London.
Daniel Pursglove is summoned to infiltrate Battle and find proof of treachery. He soon discovers that nearly everyone at the abbey has something to hide – for deeds far more dangerous than religious dissent. But one lone figure he senses only in the shadows, carefully concealed from the world. Could the notorious traitor Spero Pettingar finally be close at hand?
As more bodies are unearthed, Daniel determines to catch the culprit. But how do you unmask a killer when nobody is who they seem?
[ My Review ]
Traitor in the Ice by K.J. Maitland was published March 31st with Headline Review. It is the second novel in the acclaimed Daniel Pursglove series, following on from The Drowned City (you can read my review HERE). Using a mix of fact and fiction, K.J. Maitland transports the reader back to the 1600s, a time in English history when political tensions were high and spies were hidden in every crack and corner searching out anyone who defied the powers that be. Catholic persecution had been behind a failed attempt on the life of King James I, and his parliament, in November 1605, in what became known as The Gunpowder Plot. As the Catholics were driven deeper into hiding, the court and the government were searching for enemies to the crown and Daniel Pursglove is recalled to find proof of further treachery.
It is the Winter of 1607, one that became synonymous with one of the Great Frosts of that time. Rivers froze solid, including The Thames, and folk struggled to survive. Pursglove is sent to Battle Abbey in Sussex, the home of Lady Magdalen, Viscountess Montague. An employee of the Crown, Benet, is found dead near the Abbey and it is Pursglove’s job to uncover the truth. A long-held belief was that Lady Magdalen was faithful to the Pope and, from her home in Battle Abbey, she carried out many acts of treachery, hiding fugitive priests and holding secret masses in a hidden chapel on the grounds of her home. It had been the job of Benet to uncover any subversive behaviour but now with his untimely death, it is decided that Pursglove will infiltrate Battle and gain the trust of Lady Magdalen and her staff, in the hope of uncovering the truth.
The spectre of an individual known only as Spero Pettingar, an elusive conspirator of The Gunpowder Plot, still hangs over the court and it falls under Pursglove’s remit to dig deeper to uncover the true name of this incendiary character.
“That foul traitor has gone to ground. He might even now be hiding in Battle, or she may have smuggled him out to the Low Countries or to Spain. But the priests and spies she shelters swarm all over England and far beyond her shores. One of them at least must know the true identity of Pettingar and where he is. It is the King’s wish that you go to Battle Abbey and get yourself taken into her household. You were raised a Catholic; you can win her confidence.”
K.J. Maitland excels at describing the bleak and the cold of this period of history, invoking a real sense of time and place. As Pursglove infiltrates Battle in the role of a junior servant, he observes and inhales all that he sees, gathering information for the court. He has to gain the trust of his fellow servants but this is something that he excels at and, over time, he begins to witness some very strange goings on.
The amount of historical research is clearly evident throughout this book with K.J. Maitland’s passion for this era shining through. Benet, Lady Magdalen and her chaplain Richard Smith are all real people, as are many more that feature in the book. As someone who is not familiar with English history, I did have to research who was real in order to give me a clearer understanding of the plot. Although Daniel Pursglove is fictional, many of the main characters he interacts with all have a place in history, very much bringing this fearful era to life.
In The Drowned City we were given some insights into Daniel Pursglove’s story but there is still much to be discovered about him as his character unfolds in this book. Traitor in the Ice is a mystery wrapped up in historical fiction with an underlying layer of truth providing the roots for the plot. As a protagonist, Pursglove is intrepid, exciting, fearless and loyal, the perfect combination for a lead character. An extremely atmospheric read, Traitor in the Ice explores the darkness and intrigue of the royal court of King James I and the pervasive fear that ruled the land. K.J. Maitland incorporates a meticulous level of detail creating a very educational, absorbing and complex read, one that is sure to appeal to all English history enthusiasts.
[ Bio ]
Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.