Book Review: Rags of Time by Michael Ward

Rags of Time…

About the Book:

London. 1639.

Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil. A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.

But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household. Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables. Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game.

In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave. Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase? And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?

Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century.

My Thoughts:

What an enthralling adventure this was! I thoroughly enjoyed Rags of Time, the first in an historical crime series set in London during the mid-17th century. I’m not all that keen anymore on reading books that are part of a series – the commitment puts me off – but I’m quite certain I’ll make an exception with this one.

The sense of place is vividly realised throughout this novel, the historical detail intricate and immense; you simply feel as though you have stepped back in time whilst reading, right down the last meticulous detail. If at times the author is guilty of history ‘info-dumping’, he can be forgiven on the basis of how in-depth his story is. Set during a turbulent time in England, particularly London, with politics and religion converging into chaos; it was a dangerous time for all, suspicion rife, corruption prolific. The author utilises Thomas’s father, Sir Ralph, to keep the reader informed on what is going on at key points, but without these dialogues, I honestly wouldn’t have fully appreciated the history in all of its complexities. And this is a novel whereby the history is the anchor for the plot points, so context was necessary.

I enjoyed the characters within this novel, particularly Thomas and Elizabeth, but I also appreciated Thomas’s mother, whose presence offered much in terms of enlightening the reader to the softer side of Thomas’s personality. This is a novel where the characters were all well realised, individualised and devoid of stereotype. The groundwork has been laid well in terms of longevity if we are to follow these people along in subsequent books. Elizabeth was a woman who was very much outside of her own time, and I don’t mean that the author has placed a contemporary woman into an historical setting, rather, she had a thirst for knowledge, for breaking convention, a natural curiosity that led to a nurturing of her inner intelligence. I liked her a lot and am glad that the author has paved the way for her to appear as a regular in this series. The spark between her and Thomas was a welcome addition to the story but I liked how the author resisted turning his novel into an historical romance to accommodate it. This one is firmly historical crime fiction and I liked it all the more for it remaining that way.

In terms of the story and the crime/mystery aspect, this was also enjoyable, albeit, quite complex and I only had a hunch about the real perpetrator towards the end, about the same time at which Thomas discovered it. The manner in which Thomas was tied to the crimes he was accused of bordered on absurd – the characters acknowledged this within the novel – but he was still powerless to control the mounting campaign against him. Such were the times, really, where you were very much at the mercy of ‘the powerful people’. I’ll be interested to see what direction this series is headed. Thomas was not an investigator within this novel, he was only trying to clear his own name, so I’m not sure if he is going to turn into a sleuth, or if he will be accused of more crimes in the future and be once again investigating to clear his own name. Either way, I will be tuning in for the history; it really was an excellent realisation of the period.


Thanks is extended to the author, Michael Ward, for providing me with a copy of Rags of Time for review.

Rags of Time
Released 1st July 2020

Click here to purchase from Amazon

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