London, the winter of 1652. It is almost four years since King Charles I was executed. While Parliament dithers and Oliver Cromwell’s impatience mounts, an armed avenger stalks the streets and a series of murders threatens the highest echelons of government.
At the core of the mystery is Thomas Darke. He may have been a colonel in Parliament’s victorious army, but his one obsession is with a crime: the assassination of Colonel Rainsborough, the army’s foremost radical. He may work as a waterman on the Thames, but his secret activities touch the realms of power, where royalist still contends against parliamentarian and where John Thurloe, Cromwell’s spymaster, strives to lay hands on the fatal avenger. Darke may even tempt the heart of the beautiful Alice Hull—but can she give herself to a man whom death seems to pursue like a familiar?
This tale of revenge explores new aspects of two shocking events during the struggle for democracy in England: the assassination of Colonel Rainsborough in 1648, and the invasion of the House of Commons on 20 April 1653, when Cromwell dissolved Parliament in a military coup.
It is also a ghost story, following a driven, vengeful spirit through the rich and intimate lives of the people of London as he discovers, paradoxically, what it is to be human.