The Last Protector – Andrew Taylor

THE veteran crime writer has settled in with his engrossing series of novels set during the tumultuous years following the English Civil War.

Ashes of London, The Fire Court and The King's Evil developed his new lead characters, the government agent James Marwood and feisty female architect Cat Lovett.

The three novels featured intricate plots set against a backdrop of real incidents and personalities, including royalty and aristocracy, with the added qualities of rich atmosphere and multi-layered characterisation.

The Last Protector is another slow-burner, growing ever more gripping, as it progresses, even though James and Cat are apart for much ofel.including royalty and aristocracy.

This four story begins with a routine but dangerous assignment for James, mounting surveillance over a duel between Royal favourite Lord Buckingham and another aristocrat.

James's employers have an interest in the outcome of the deal, which could help them increase their influence with the King – put in the claustrophobic and conspiratorial world of the Royal Court. There are other parties with similar interests.

But all this is a smokescreen: the real story concerns Richard Cromwell, son of the notorious and now-dead Oliver Cromwell, who has returned secretly from exile to England.

The Last Protector confirms Andrew Taylor as one of the best writers of historical mysteries, especially from the English Civil War era.

One thing that makes this a more engrossing read than many novels is a relationship between the two main characters: not romantic, but close, complicated and-so realistic.

David Knights