'A Cruel Necessity' by L C Tyler is unique - crime fiction set during Cromwell's rule after the English Civil Wars.
What makes this mystery different is the intentionally humorous twist. This is a period I love, and L C Tyler has done a great job of bringing it to life, in all its grubby glory. The plot includes the spying activities of Thurloe, the nebulously changing factions of Roundheads and Cavaliers, and the sheer difficulty of identifying a murder suspect in the era before forensics.
Our main character, John Grey, is a very likeable trainee lawyer, intelligent but naive, and his blundering but well-intentioned attempts to bring the murderer to justice are thwarted at every turn by men (and women) more world-weary than himself. The delights of this novel lie in the clever and witty dialogue, and in the satisfyingly complex plot, which includes code-breaking and red herrings galore, and even a brief appearance by Pepys.
Right up until the end I was as baffled as Grey, but when the resolution came, it was a corker. Clever, witty stuff, and I hope there will be many more in this series.
If you like the name Araminta, (sadly out of fashion right now!) you might also like The Painted Lady by Edward Marston, another historical whodunnit featuring a woman of this name, but very different from the Araminta in 'A Cruel Necessity'. This time the novel is set later in the seventeenth century after the Restoration, (my favourite period) and features sleuth Chistopher Redmayne the architect, and his sidekick Constable Jonathan Bale.
Both books are pleasurably tight and compact reads at just over 300 pages.
Publishers: Constable & Robinson, and Allison & Busby.