A Cruel Necessity is the first novel in L.C. Tyler’s new series of John Grey Historical Mysteries. I enjoyed it enormously. The author has cleverly chosen to set his series in a little-used and unique period, the short-lived English Republic. This gives the novel a real freshness and its world is very well-researched.
It is 1657, eight years after England saw its greatest change since the Norman Conquest. Life has returned to an uneasy peace, provided people keep their heads down and don’t ask awkward questions. John Grey is a young lawyer, just returned from Cambridge to his small Essex village. When he stumbles upon the body of a Royalist spy, Grey is alone in wanting to find whodunit.
The narrative is written in first person in L.C. Tyler’s customary sparkling style. John Grey is a likable character who speaks to us in witty dialogue with a wry humour. All the characters are interesting and believable. We can relate to them across the centuries with the same motivations and foibles as people of today.
I really like the author’s sense of place. The village is evoked with wonderful descriptions. They draw you in to this sensuous mid-seventeenth century world where you can almost smell the hay, camomile, cucumbers and dung-heaps of summer. Later in the novel a crowded, reeking London is equally well-drawn.
The twisting plot is complex and plausible. L. C. Tyler is a master of deception. One of those books that reads with an effortless flow, a page-turner that’s hard to put down. If you enjoy historical mysteries, A Cruel Necessity is refreshingly different and a superb treat.