Quercus | 2018, Pb 2019 | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
It is 1655 and Captain Damian Seeker must leave London to conduct Cromwell’s business in the north of England. He is despatched to York to prepare the way for the rule of the Major-Generals with their new stringent anti-Royalist laws. Routine business takes Seeker to the small village of Faithly but he finds a village in turmoil, its priest accused of popery and its leading families united in their hatred of one another. The village is only waiting for the arrival of the trier or judge before their priest is put to trial for his supposed crimes. But while they wait, Seeker attends a dinner at the home of the village’s Commissioner Matthew Pullen, and during the meal a young girl dies an unnatural death. As if all this isn’t enough for Seeker to deal with, the trier then arrives and the ground falls away beneath his feet and it all becomes very personal indeed.
Destroying Angel is the third novel in S.G. MacLean’s fine Seeker series. I have been longing to read this book! The first novel, The Seeker, sealed this series’ place as one of my favourites, and I can’t see any sign of that changing. The Civil War and Commonwealth years are fascinating to me and S.G. MacLean has done a brilliant job of bringing the unhappy Cromwellian era of the 1650s to life. And it doesn’t hurt that Damian Seeker is one of the most enigmatic and charismatic figures in historical fiction. He exerts such a dominating presence in these books. I have most certainly fallen for him.
The Yorkshire setting is brilliantly evoked. It feels distant from London and the events of recent years but those turbulent times have troubled it, just as they have everywhere else. The Parliamentarian cause that fought and won the Civil War is now divided. The Levellers are viewed with great suspicion and are persecuted. Some people are regarded as turncoats, Royalists who switched sides when the outcome seemed certain, while families are split down the middle. And then there’s the near-hysterical hunt for so-called witches. All of this unhappiness affects the small village of Faithly and Captain Seeker is thrown into the midst of it, trying to do the right thing while serving a man hated by many.
I really enjoyed this, especially the first half, with its fine historical detail and moody atmosphere, helped along here with the wonderful location. The countryside and village life form the perfect backdrop. There are so many details of 17th-century daily life and I particularly liked the domestic scenes.
Destroying Angel has a fantastic plot. It’s complex and gripping. I really enjoyed its tangled threads, especially because one is so personal to Seeker. We see a new side to the man here, a caring side, although he does his best to hide it.
Destroying Angel is a crime novel but the mystery element is placed so well within a believable and richly-created historical setting, which is all the more fascinating because it takes place away from the more familiar London. This high quality, deliciously moody series continues to deliver. I long for more.