A Restoration whodunit.
What is the Thomas Chaloner series about?
Thomas Chaloner is the central character and narrator in a series of historical mystery crime novels by Susanna Gregory. He grew up in Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire, before having to fight for Cromwell’s New Model Army during the civil wars. Afterward, he pursued and finished his studies in Cambridge, and enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn. Then, he was hired by Cromwell’s Spymaster General John Thurloe.
Everything was fine during the new ten years until the fall of the Commonwealth happened. With the monarchy’s restoration, Thomas Chaloner is dismissed in favor of men who stayed on Charles II’s side. In that situation, Chaloner has no choice but to accept a post in the Earl of Clarendon’s household, following a recommendation by his erstwhile employer.
Let’s just say that Thomas’s spy career is not finished and he will find himself having to resolve a lot of mysteries.
How to read the Thomas Chaloner Books in Order?
Every book in the Thomas Chaloner series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- A Conspiracy of Violence (2006)
- Blood On the Strand (2007)
- The Butcher of Smithfield (2008)
- The Westminster Poisoner (2008)
- A Murder on London Bridge (2009)
- The Body in the Thames (2011)
- The Piccadilly Plot (2012)
- Death in St James’s Park (2013)
- Murder on High Holborn (2014)
- The Cheapside Corpse (2015)
- The Chelsea Strangler (2016)
- The Executioner of St Paul’s (2017)
- Intrigue in Covent Garden (2018)
- The Clerkenwell Affair (2020)
- The Pudding Lane Plot (2022)
What is the plot of the Thomas Chaloner stories?
For more information about the books in the Thomas Chaloner series by Susanna Gregory, you’ll find below the official synopsis for all the books:
A Conspiracy of Violence – The grim days of Cromwell are passed. Freed from the structures of the Protectorate, London seethes with new energy, but many of its citizens have lost their livelihoods. One is Thomas Chaloner, a reluctant spy for the feared Secretary of State, John Thurloe. His erstwhile employer recommends Thomas to Lord Clarendon, but in return demands that Thomas keep him informed of any plot against him. But what Thomas discovers is that Thurloe had sent another ex-employee to White Hall-and he is dead, purportedly murdered by footpads near the Thames. Thomas volunteers to investigate his killing, but instead he is dispatched to the Tower to unearth the gold buried by the last Governor. There, he discovers not treasure, but evidence that, whomever is in power, greed and self-interest are uppermost in men’s minds. And that his own life has no value to either side.
Blood On the Strand – In London in 1663, rebellion is in the air. Thomas Chaloner, spy for the King’s intelligence service, has just returned from thwarting a planned revolt in Dublin, but he soon realizes that England’s capital is no haven of peace. Ordered to investigate the shooting of a beggar during a royal procession, he soon learns that the man is not a vagrant, but someone with links to the powerful Company of Barber-Surgeons. Meanwhile, Chaloner’s master, the Earl of Clarendon, is locked in a deadly feud with the Earl of Bristol, and an innocent man is about to be hanged in Newgate. In a desperate race against time, Chaloner must find a way to protect Clarendon, track down a murderer, and save an innocent man from the executioner’s noose.
The Butcher of Smithfield – Thomas Chaloner, just returned from a clandestine excursion, finds London dank and grey under leaden skies. Although he has only been away for a short while, he finds many things changed, including the government slapping a tax on printed newspapers. Handwritten news reports escape the duty, and the rivalry between the producers of the two conduits of news is the talk of the coffeehouses, with the battle to be first with any sort of intelligence escalating into violent rivalry. And it seems that a number of citizens who have eaten cucumbers have come to untimely deaths. It is such a death which Chaloner is despatched to investigate; that of a lawyer with links to “the Butcher of Smithfield,” a shady trader surrounded by a fearsome gang of thugs who terrorize the streets well beyond the confines of Smithfield market. Chaloner doesn’t believe that either this death or the others are caused by a simple vegetable, but to prove his theory he has to untangle the devious means of how news is gathered and he has to put his personal safety aside as he tries to penetrate the rumor mill surrounding the Butcher of Smithfield and discover his real identity.
The Westminster Poisoner – 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.
A Murder on London Bridge – The murder of a man in broad daylight on London Bridge is the first indication that the Earl of Clarendon’s fears of a rebellion against the newly restored monarchy may be well-founded. His spy, Thomas Chaloner, suspects the assassin may be a member of a group dedicated to seeing the return of Puritanism, and at the same time he learns of a faction close to the King determined to bring back the old ways of the Roman Catholic Church. He discovers, too, that the killing on the Bridge is not the only assault committed there recently, and begins to decipher a link between the violence and the people who manage the Bridge and its tottering, ramshackle buildings. As he moves unobtrusively between White Hall, the elegant mansions along the Strand, and the heaving congestion on the only river crossing he becomes aware of an undercurrent of restlessness in the capital.
The Body in the Thames – In the dilapidated surroundings of the Savoy, a delegation from the government in the Netherlands is gathered in a last-ditch attempt to secure peace between the two countries. Thomas Chaloner, active in Holland during Cromwell’s time, is horrified at the violent aggression and hatred shown to the Dutch by ordinary Londoners, but is more worried by the dismissive attitude with which they are greeted by the King’s ministers and officials. When the body of his former brother-in-law is found in the Thames, Chaloner discovers the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder. These clues may be linked to a plot to steal the crown jewels, or to a conspiracy to ensure that no peace is secured between the two nations.
The Piccadilly Plot – Thomas Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London. His master, the Earl of Clarendon, has sent him to Tangier to investigate a case of corruption. Chaloner will be glad to be home and reunited with his new wife, but the trivial reason for his recall exasperates him-the theft of material from the construction site of Clarendon’s embarrassingly sumptuous new house just north of Piccadilly. Within hours of his return, Chaloner considers these thefts even more paltry as he is thrust into extra investigations involving threats of assassination, a stolen corpse, and a scheme to frame the Queen for treason. Yet there are connections from them all which thread through the unfinished Clarendon House.
Death in St. James’s Park – Five years after Charles II’s triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials – and when a cart laden with gunpowder explodes outside the General Letter Office, it is immediately clear that such an act is more than an expression of outrage at the inefficiency of the postal service. As intelligencer to the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Chaloner cannot understand why a man of known incompetence is put in charge of investigating the attack while he is diverted to make enquiries about the poisoning of birds in the King’s aviary in St James’s Park. Then human rather than avian victims are poisoned, and Chaloner knows he has to ignore his master’s instructions and use his own considerable wits to defeat an enemy whose deadly tentacles reach into the very heart of the government…
Murder on High Holborn – While investigating the murder of Paul Ferine, who served the king as groom of the robes, intelligencer Thomas Chaloner finds himself tasked with tracking down the leaders of the Fifth Monarchists, a fanatical sect.
The Cheapside Corpse – London, 1665: there is plague in the stews of St Giles, the Dutch fleet is preparing to invade, and a banking crisis threatens to leave Charles II’s government with no means of paying for the nation’s defence. Amid the tension, Thomas Chaloner is ordered to investigate the murder of Dick Wheler, one of the few goldsmith-bankers to have survived the losses that have driven others to bankruptcy – or worse. Chaloner’s foray into the world of the financiers convinces him that they are just as great a threat as the Dutch, but their power and greed thwart him at every turn.
The Chelsea Strangler – In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in plague-ridden London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. At Chelsea, with fine mansions leased to minor members of the Court, there are more immediate concerns: the government has commandeered the theological college to house Dutch prisoners of war. Moreover, a vicious strangler is stalking the neighborhood. Thomas Chaloner is sent to investigate the murder of the first victim, an inmate of a private sanatorium known as Gorges. He realises, though, that Gorges has stronger links to the prison than just proximity, and that the influx of strangers offers plenty of camouflage for a killer…
The Executioner of St Paul’s – 1665. The plague raging through London has emptied the city. The only people left are those too poor to flee, or those who selflessly struggle to control the contagion. Amongst them are those who sell dubious “cures”, and those who hold in their hands the future of the city’s most iconic building – St Paul’s Cathedral. The handsome edifice is crumbling from decades of neglect, giving the current custodians a stark choice – repair or demolish. Large sums of money have disappeared, major players have mysteriously vanished, and then an unidentified skeleton is discovered in another man’s grave. A reluctant Chaloner returns to London to investigate, only to discover that someone is determined to thwart him by any means.
Intrigue in Covent Garden – The death of a well-connected physician, the mysterious sinking of a man-of-war in the Thames and the disappearance of a popular courtier are causing concern to Thomas Chaloner’s employer. When instructed to investigate them all, he is irritated that he is prevented from gaining intelligence on the military preparations of the Dutch. Then he discovers common threads in all the cases, which seem linked to those planning to set a match to the powder keg of rebellion in the city. Battling a ferocious winter storm that causes serious damage to London’s fabric, Chaloner is in a race against time to prevent the weakened city from utter destruction.
The Clerkenwell Affair – In the spring of 1666 everyone’s first reaction to a sudden death at the palace of White Hall is that the plague has struck, but the killing of Thomas Chiffinch was by design, not disease. Chiffinch was holder of two influential posts – Keeper of the Closet and Keeper of the Jewels – and rival courtiers have made no secret of their wish to succeed to those offices. To Thomas Chaloner, ordered to undertake the investigation, such avarice gives a whole host of suspects an ample motive for murder.
The Pudding Lane Plot – The people and businesses of London are quickly recovering from the ravages of the plague, none faster than the Court of Charles II where excess, corruption and debauchery has rebounded at a frenetic pace. In Westminster, in the haphazard corridors of White Hall Palace, plans are afoot for a grandiose ball in honour of a long-dead but English-born Pope. Meanwhile, the markets and coffee houses in the city are awash with rumours of war and portents of a coming disaster, inflamed by uncensored newssheets and the wagging tongues of dissatisfied citizens.