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The Westminster Poisoner: Chaloner's Fourth Exploit in Restoration London

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Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage, so he decides to commission his own inquiries into the murders and, with his suspicions centred on Greene, another clerk, he instructs Thomas Chaloner to prove that Greene is the killer. Chaloner can prove otherwise, but unravelling the reasons behind his employer's suspicions is as complex as discovering the motives for the killings. His search for the real murderer plunges him into a stinking seam of corruption that leads towards the Royal apartments and to people determined to make Christmas 1663 Chaloner's last . . .


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Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage Christopher Vine, a Treasury clerk working in solitary piety in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster, is not alone. A killer waits in the draughty hall to ensure Vine will not live to see in the New Year. And Vine is not the only government official to die that season. The Lord Chancellor fears his enemies will skew any investigation to cause him maximum damage, so he decides to commission his own inquiries into the murders and, with his suspicions centred on Greene, another clerk, he instructs Thomas Chaloner to prove that Greene is the killer. Chaloner can prove otherwise, but unravelling the reasons behind his employer's suspicions is as complex as discovering the motives for the killings. His search for the real murderer plunges him into a stinking seam of corruption that leads towards the Royal apartments and to people determined to make Christmas 1663 Chaloner's last . . .

30 review for The Westminster Poisoner: Chaloner's Fourth Exploit in Restoration London

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I had only read a few books of Gregory's other historical fiction series (Bartholomew) and had not liked them but failed to make a note of why. So...trying to find a nice historical to read and discovering this one available at my library I brought it home. This series is Reformation based featuring one Chaloner who had been a spy during Cromwell's reign under Thurloe. The timing is Christmas holidays and unscrupulous, thieving clerks are dying as well as a stolen statue of the king's is missing I had only read a few books of Gregory's other historical fiction series (Bartholomew) and had not liked them but failed to make a note of why. So...trying to find a nice historical to read and discovering this one available at my library I brought it home. This series is Reformation based featuring one Chaloner who had been a spy during Cromwell's reign under Thurloe. The timing is Christmas holidays and unscrupulous, thieving clerks are dying as well as a stolen statue of the king's is missing...thus all these problems are assigned to Chaloner by the Chancellor. The poor queen is not fertile and the behavior of the courtiers is particularly vile and absolutely nothing makes any sense to me. No one succeeds but the crooks and evil doers. Not my kind of read. There are 14 books in this series, and this was the 4th. After his continued missteps in this one it must require many miracles for this character Chaloner to survive. In real life Thomas Chaloner (regicide) was a signatory to King Charles I death warrant. He died in the Netherlands in 1661 before the events of this book starting with Christmas 1663. I don't want to figure it out beyond this confusion. It's a muddle. 2.5 stars Library Loan

  2. 5 out of 5

    Waverly Fitzgerald

    I'm reading a lot of books about the Restoration (also Dark Angels by Karleen Koen and Restoration by Rose Tremain), as well as Killers of the King, a used book I bought at the great Seattle used book store, Magus, which describes how Charles II hunted down and killed the men who killed his father, Charles I (who is still alive in the book I am writing about the English Civil War). So it's fun to read this historical mystery. Her main character, Thomas Chaloner, is one of the regicides, who, in I'm reading a lot of books about the Restoration (also Dark Angels by Karleen Koen and Restoration by Rose Tremain), as well as Killers of the King, a used book I bought at the great Seattle used book store, Magus, which describes how Charles II hunted down and killed the men who killed his father, Charles I (who is still alive in the book I am writing about the English Civil War). So it's fun to read this historical mystery. Her main character, Thomas Chaloner, is one of the regicides, who, in real life, fled to the Netherlands, but in her book, he's become a spy for Clarendon, the pompous and opinionated Chief Minister to Charles II. She also uses real courtiers as the suspects in a series of murders committed at White Hall, which Chaloner is investigating for Clarendon. There's a lot of wandering around London, talking to various characters, and some glimpses of the courtiers going through the holiday customs around the winter holidays, including some great pranks pulled by the Lord of Misrule. I had some concerns about if any of the events of this book actually happened. I don't really like that feeling when I'm reading historical novels.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Part of Susanna Gregroy's Thomas Chaloner mystery series set in Restoration London. Well plotted and well written. Found it hard to feel any rapport with the main character, which is a bit of a draw back with any novel. Enjoyed it enough that I will read the others if I come across them, but not a enough to deliberately seek out the rest of the series. Part of Susanna Gregroy's Thomas Chaloner mystery series set in Restoration London. Well plotted and well written. Found it hard to feel any rapport with the main character, which is a bit of a draw back with any novel. Enjoyed it enough that I will read the others if I come across them, but not a enough to deliberately seek out the rest of the series.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    Another in this superb series set in Restoration London. Here Thomas' employer, The Lord Chancellor, hires another spy, Colonel Turner, and pits him and Thomas against one another stating that whoever solves the crime would secure his position. So poor Thomas' livelihood is once more threatened. I have become familiar with Gregory's style and so was able to read this novel more quickly than the earlier ones in the series. Her research is impeccable and again she populates the story with many rea Another in this superb series set in Restoration London. Here Thomas' employer, The Lord Chancellor, hires another spy, Colonel Turner, and pits him and Thomas against one another stating that whoever solves the crime would secure his position. So poor Thomas' livelihood is once more threatened. I have become familiar with Gregory's style and so was able to read this novel more quickly than the earlier ones in the series. Her research is impeccable and again she populates the story with many real life minor clerks and courtiers. Even the suspicious deaths/murders correspond to actual deaths in 1663/64 even if embellished some. In all a wonderful reading experience as well as an intriguing historical whodunit.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is the fourth book in Gregory’s Chaloner series. Clarendon tasks Chaloner with two things, investigating the murders of three Westminster clerks who have all died in quick succession, by the hand of a poisoner. Secondly, someone has stolen the king’s Bernini sculpture of his father, Charles I. Chaloner must find the culprit of both crimes, and also deliver the sculpture back to the king. There’s a twist. Clarendon has employed a second spy, Colonel Turner. He’s putting the two spies head to This is the fourth book in Gregory’s Chaloner series. Clarendon tasks Chaloner with two things, investigating the murders of three Westminster clerks who have all died in quick succession, by the hand of a poisoner. Secondly, someone has stolen the king’s Bernini sculpture of his father, Charles I. Chaloner must find the culprit of both crimes, and also deliver the sculpture back to the king. There’s a twist. Clarendon has employed a second spy, Colonel Turner. He’s putting the two spies head to head, and the first to solve both mysteries will retain his job, the other will be unemployed. Once again, the plot is incredibly complicated, with so many different characters involved. However, Gregory has clearly done her research, as most of the characters were indeed real people, even the clerks who are mentioned were real. As the story goes on, the mysteries seem to weave together, and somehow, chaloner’s friend Temperance seems to have some involvement. I would’ve never guessed the ending, I had toting different suspicions in my mind. Well written, good plot, exciting story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alan Burgess

    After reading many of the reviews I feel that I read a different book than the rest of you. The interviewing and reinterviewing of individuals....going nowhere....I found added little to the story. The humor was great and the description of London during this period was very good. I could have done with about half of the characters and a fuller description of each.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lexie Conyngham

    I don’t think I’ve read one of hers before but it was very good – fine setting, lively characters, and a very interesting note at the back placing it all in its historical context.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Toast

    Tedious, slow but rich in period details. Good on history but not what you want from detective fiction. Toast

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karen Brooks

    This is the fourth Thomas Chaloner book I’ve read featuring the much put upon and impoverished former roundhead spy who now works for the ungrateful (and disloyal – to him) Earl of Clarendon. This time, a poisoner is at work killing the King’s clerks in brazen circumstances. When the Earl asks both Chaloner and a new man he’s appointed to investigate these crimes and the case of the king’s missing Bernini sculpture, setting them against each other, and the Earl’s own secretaries Bulteel and Hadd This is the fourth Thomas Chaloner book I’ve read featuring the much put upon and impoverished former roundhead spy who now works for the ungrateful (and disloyal – to him) Earl of Clarendon. This time, a poisoner is at work killing the King’s clerks in brazen circumstances. When the Earl asks both Chaloner and a new man he’s appointed to investigate these crimes and the case of the king’s missing Bernini sculpture, setting them against each other, and the Earl’s own secretaries Bulteel and Haddon take bets on whether Chaloner or the new man will solve the cases, Thomas understands his job is at stake. But, it’s not only his employ that’s under threat. As usual, on the mean streets of Restoration London, it’s his life as well. With his only friend, his former boss, Thurloe, about to leave the city and his old friend, the former Puritan and now brothel madame, Temperance, fast losing patience with him and a new relationship with one of the queen’s ladies to foster, Thomas has his work cut out and many dangers to avoid - never mind worrying about where his next penny will come from. But as the body count mounts and he’s no closer to solving the case, Thomas understands that his priorities and friendships may have to change… Gregory has such a rich and detailed understanding of the period, of the complexities of the political, social and sexual machinations of the court, it’s sometimes hard to keep up as a cast of hundreds appear and disappear and the plot thickens until it almost congeals. Only, it doesn’t. Immersing the reader in the murky settings and even murkier plans of those who seek power at all costs, Gregory’s novels are a great way to rediscover history and cleave to a marvellous but also very human and flawed character, Thomas Chaloner. Once again, I found part of the novel a bit slow and occasionally had to stop and remind myself who is who, but never did I lose my respect and appreciation for Gregory’s lovely writing and ability to recreate history and weave historical fact (detailed facts too and people) with fiction. It’s not surprising, considering Susanna Gregory is the pseudonym of Elizabeth Cruwys a Cambridge academic. She was also once a coroner’s officer, so her eye for detail and for being able to relate it in an authentic way is outstanding. I do think this series is getting better and better and cannot wait to read the next instalment.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    This review was first published in my blog here. This is the fourth of the Thomas Chaloner series, historical mysteries set just after the restoration of the monarchy in Britain following the Civil War and Cromwell's rule. In The Westminster Poisoner, Chaloner investigates a series of murders of government officials, despite interference from his employer, who starts out by telling him who the murderer should be. As is now standard in this series, Chaloner spends much of the investigation as an ou This review was first published in my blog here. This is the fourth of the Thomas Chaloner series, historical mysteries set just after the restoration of the monarchy in Britain following the Civil War and Cromwell's rule. In The Westminster Poisoner, Chaloner investigates a series of murders of government officials, despite interference from his employer, who starts out by telling him who the murderer should be. As is now standard in this series, Chaloner spends much of the investigation as an outsider to the corrupt world of Restoration London; this provides an interesting perspective, but can become a bit wearing. The Westminster Poisoner is quite lengthy, for a crime novel, and it sometimes feels as though it's spending too much time wallowing in the depravity instead of getting on with the mystery. The depiction of Restoration London is one of the things which first interested me in the series, but I am feeling that by the fourth book it's becoming a little too much always the same. Still, the characterisation is good, and the mystery is interesting and difficult to solve, and the historical background is meticulously researched. The ending is very good indeed. Generally, I felt that the positive aspects of The Westminster Poisoner outweighed the negative, though it is not as good as earlier books in the series where the background was fresher

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I very much enjoyed this Restoration-set murder mystery, which, like all of Gregory's thrillers, features real, recorded historical characters and events, reworked into a fictional fabric to great effect. It is Christmas time, three years into the restoration of the monarchy, and all London is celebrating the season with great gusto. All London, that is, except for Thomas Chaloner, the secretive ex-Parliamentarian soldier (now spy for the effusive and slightly paranoid Lord Chancellor, the Earl I very much enjoyed this Restoration-set murder mystery, which, like all of Gregory's thrillers, features real, recorded historical characters and events, reworked into a fictional fabric to great effect. It is Christmas time, three years into the restoration of the monarchy, and all London is celebrating the season with great gusto. All London, that is, except for Thomas Chaloner, the secretive ex-Parliamentarian soldier (now spy for the effusive and slightly paranoid Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon), who has been tasked to discover the culprit behind the brazen theft of a priceless sculpture from King Charles II's collection. But then a series of dead bodies start turning up around the Palace of Westminster, and Chaloner's job is suddenly made a whole lot more difficult... This is a proper page-turner of a read, with a lovely sense of time, place, and characterisation throughout, and comes complete with some very neat (and very clever) little red herrings strewn throughout the plot to make the reader really think. This is easily the best of the Chaloner novels so far.

  12. 4 out of 5

    K.B. Hallman

    I had originally been bemoaning the lack of humor in this book. I expected something akin to the banter between Matt and Michael in Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series. This time the humor smacked me on the last page of the story. Our hero--Thomas Chaloner--is a government spy and an incredibly gullible man. This book isn't so much a whodunit as a who-did-what-to-whom-when-and-why as well as a who-didn't-do-anything-to-anybody. (Think Murder on the Orient Express.) Along the way, we are treated I had originally been bemoaning the lack of humor in this book. I expected something akin to the banter between Matt and Michael in Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series. This time the humor smacked me on the last page of the story. Our hero--Thomas Chaloner--is a government spy and an incredibly gullible man. This book isn't so much a whodunit as a who-did-what-to-whom-when-and-why as well as a who-didn't-do-anything-to-anybody. (Think Murder on the Orient Express.) Along the way, we are treated to sword-and-broom fights; chases through White Hall Palace and over the rooftops of London; escapes by way of a winter swim in the Thames; theft; poisonings; attacks perpetrated by soldiers of fortune; courtiers behaving badly; greedy, corrupt, inept government officials.... Ah, wonderful stuff!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lc16

    As always with the Chaloner series I felt that I was in 17th century London - albeit a sometimes strange and surreal one. Her plots are labyrinth with so many twists and turns. I love that minor characters are as interesting as the main ones. One of the few series that always make me laugh out loud a couple of times. It shouldn't have surprised me but as we see everything through Chaloner's eyes the end scenes completely pulled the rug from under me. I wish that Chaloner didn't seem quite so fri As always with the Chaloner series I felt that I was in 17th century London - albeit a sometimes strange and surreal one. Her plots are labyrinth with so many twists and turns. I love that minor characters are as interesting as the main ones. One of the few series that always make me laugh out loud a couple of times. It shouldn't have surprised me but as we see everything through Chaloner's eyes the end scenes completely pulled the rug from under me. I wish that Chaloner didn't seem quite so friendless but I realise this goes with the territory and is a contrast to the Barthlowmew series. Gregory's books are still an automatic purchase.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Set in Restoration London, this fourth entry in the Thomas Chaloner mysteries did little to endear me to the series. The setting and ambiance are great; here it is Yuletide a few years into the reign of Charles II. The problem with this book and with the series in general is that Chaloner comes across as not very smart. The story almost reads as though Susanna Gregory made Chaloner dumb just so she could stretch a pretty simple mystery into a whole novel. Gregory also writes the fantastic mediev Set in Restoration London, this fourth entry in the Thomas Chaloner mysteries did little to endear me to the series. The setting and ambiance are great; here it is Yuletide a few years into the reign of Charles II. The problem with this book and with the series in general is that Chaloner comes across as not very smart. The story almost reads as though Susanna Gregory made Chaloner dumb just so she could stretch a pretty simple mystery into a whole novel. Gregory also writes the fantastic medieval series featuring Cambridge physician Matthew Bartholomew, which are complex, involved, and smart. The disparity between the two series perplexes me. I really want to like these. Damn.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This is a first class mystery novel. I had no hope of figuring out the killer. The book is structured arouund Tom Chaloner and a few supporting characters. However, the cast of minor characters have a big bearing on the story. They are skillfully written. I would love to see a bit more personality from Chaloner. He can sometimes seem a little dry. That said, the introduction of his new girlfriend was a nice development. I look forward to the next books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Johanne

    I do like this series of books, good plots and a good level of historical detail. The odious Lady Castlemain turns up in this one along with a lot of disgruntled people who found the restoration wasn't what they'd hoped for. Challoner has to pick his way through various suspects and misleading details to catch the killer. NB it also pleased me to see that the formerly dutiful Puritan Temperance's brothel is still a success :-) I do like this series of books, good plots and a good level of historical detail. The odious Lady Castlemain turns up in this one along with a lot of disgruntled people who found the restoration wasn't what they'd hoped for. Challoner has to pick his way through various suspects and misleading details to catch the killer. NB it also pleased me to see that the formerly dutiful Puritan Temperance's brothel is still a success :-)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Martin Fautley

    Intelligent, probably well-researched (felt right, which is about all I am qualified to say!) and captured the contrasts of Restoration London nicely. Good characterisation, and plot was believable, concerning poisonings of clerk-type chappies in and around Westminster. Nice side-plot of missing bust too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    As good as the first Thomas Chaloner book I read. Susanna Gregory's books don't seem to be as good as CJ Sansom but they are still a good read. This book has plenty of twists and turns and I hadn't guessed the ending, so that's always a bonus. Looking forward to reading the next one I have from the library. As good as the first Thomas Chaloner book I read. Susanna Gregory's books don't seem to be as good as CJ Sansom but they are still a good read. This book has plenty of twists and turns and I hadn't guessed the ending, so that's always a bonus. Looking forward to reading the next one I have from the library.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margareth8537

    Audiobook read by Gordon Griffin Further adventures of a spy - Challoner -at the time of the Restoration. Challoner had worked for Cromwell's spymaster, Thurloe, and now works for King Charles' chancellor. A number of clerks have been killed and he is charged with finding the murderer and with finding a stolen Bernini statue of the old King. Audiobook read by Gordon Griffin Further adventures of a spy - Challoner -at the time of the Restoration. Challoner had worked for Cromwell's spymaster, Thurloe, and now works for King Charles' chancellor. A number of clerks have been killed and he is charged with finding the murderer and with finding a stolen Bernini statue of the old King.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Roshni

    Fantastic book, although a bit on the long side. Chaloner's character is very likable and intelligent. I guessed the thief but not the murderer beforehand. Chaloner always evades death with an extremely small margin of error Fantastic book, although a bit on the long side. Chaloner's character is very likable and intelligent. I guessed the thief but not the murderer beforehand. Chaloner always evades death with an extremely small margin of error

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    as always a brilliant read from thus author. She captures the history so brilliantly and the story always flows well with lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and the text has a good comic element too, several times i actually did laugh out load or giggle quietly. briliant!

  22. 4 out of 5

    William

    Reading the first half of this book was a chore and I had a hard time caring "who dunnit". It improved in the second half, so I would give the first half two stars and the second half four stars. Hence my "award" of three stars for the book as a whole. Not my favorite Chaloner! Reading the first half of this book was a chore and I had a hard time caring "who dunnit". It improved in the second half, so I would give the first half two stars and the second half four stars. Hence my "award" of three stars for the book as a whole. Not my favorite Chaloner!

  23. 4 out of 5

    kelly

    I enjoyed ms. gregory's historical accuracy. The best thing I can say is that this series has made me research restoration England. I enjoyed ms. gregory's historical accuracy. The best thing I can say is that this series has made me research restoration England.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    a little slow but interesting. enjoyable characters and some of them were real people from that time so that was interesting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Good book, but not as good as her Monk Series, still good read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Arnold

    Not so into this one. Think I've read too many of SG's books over the years. Guessed the killer etc. Not so into this one. Think I've read too many of SG's books over the years. Guessed the killer etc.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda Amos

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. Read it slightly out of synch but it didn't matter. A good fun read, plenty of suspense, atmosphere, twists and turns. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Read it slightly out of synch but it didn't matter. A good fun read, plenty of suspense, atmosphere, twists and turns.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Really there are no likeable characters. A disappointment.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leighbeth Winter

    Love it ! The closer to the end of the book . the more intense the mystery, Susanna I'm hooked ! Love it ! The closer to the end of the book . the more intense the mystery, Susanna I'm hooked !

  30. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    More streamlined than the others, a bit easier to get through.

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