THE FIRE COURT sees the return of James Marwood and Cat Lovett who were introduced to us in THE ASHES OF LONDON.
James Marwood has been doing reasonably well financially with two clerkships under two different masters. He has moved to town with his traitorous father Nathaniel (suffering from dementia) and two servants husband and wife Margaret and Sam. Meanwhile Cat Lovett is living as a maid under the name Jane Hakesby and working for architect Simon Hakesby, her ‘cousin’. London is slowly being rebuilt after the great fire. A fire court has been established by the King to solve property disputes quickly so that rebuilding can proceed.
When Nathaniel gives Margaret and Sam the slip and goes wondering, he comes back with a tale of following his long dead wife to the fire court, of a woman dressed as a whore and a murder. His son dismisses the tale as fantastic ramblings – he has better things to do than entertain the old man. But when a body turns up matching the description of the murder victim he realises that at least part of the tale was true and when his father is run down in the street he wonders if his father’s death could be another murder.
As Marwood investigates, he finds connections to the fire court and the determination of the rights to a property known as Dragon’s Yard. Philip Limbury is the freeholder but the leaseholders also have rights and the primary leaseholder has employed Hakesby as architect, so once again Marwood and Cat are thrown together.
This is a time when a man’s connections to those in power were often more important than the rights of general citizens. The fight for the rights to Dragon Yard involve corruption, use of connections and more murder. Marwood and Cat both find themselves in danger from ruthless men during the fascinating struggle.
This was an excellent novel that could be read on its own. But it is best to read THE ASHES OF LONDON first since it introduces many of the characters who appear in this novel. The mystery was good, the characters excellent and the retelling of the history of the time accurate and enjoyable.
Andrew Taylor is a wonderful storyteller, wrapping history in wonderful characters (both real and fictional). I hope that there will be further additions to this series.