Tuesday 11 June 2024

The Fire Court

Finished June 10
The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

This is the second book in the series that started with The Ashes of London, which I read nearly eight years ago. At the center of the book are two characters from the earlier book. One of them is James Marwood, clerk for Mr. Williamson, the Under-Secretary of State to Lord Arlington. He is also clerk to the Board of Red Cloth, which is attached to the Groom of the Stool's department, run by Mr. Chiffinch. This serving of two masters sometimes puts him in a difficult situation. He is also worried about his father, who well healthy in body is falling into dementia, and James has hired Margaret and her brother Sam as servants to assist in managing his father as well as his new house in Infirmary Close in Savoy. 
The other character that is key here and played a role in the previous book is Catherine (Cat) Lovett, now going by the name of Jane Hakesby, and acting as both servant to and cousin of Simon Hakesby, an architect and draughtsman. Hakesby also employs a draughtsman, Brennan, who has come to him only recently. Jane feels wary of him, and feels him watching her, but can't pin down why she feels uneasy. Hakesby has health issues that sometimes make him weak.
The third character that we see closely is Lady Jemima Limbury, wife of Sir Philip Limbury and daughter of Sir George Syre. She also sometimes has health issues and also seems worried about what her husband has been up to and what debts he has accrued. She knows that her family money is one of the reasons that he married her, but she also longs for his love, and to bear the grandson her father so desperately wants. 
At the center of the story is a piece of land that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and which will soon be coming up as a case in The Fire Court. This court has been set up by the king to be as impartial as possible, judging each case on its own merits, with none of the decisions subject to become precedents in future cases. The court is working to decide cases quickly, trying to be as fair as possible to both the owners of the properties as well as leaseholders. The overall aim is to rebuild The City as quickly as possible.
In his position, Mr. Hakesby often comes before the court, or sits in on decisions that affect clients of his. Jane often takes notes, using shorthand, as well as working as a draughtsman for him. 
When Marwood's father gets out of the house on his own one day and tells a confusing story of his adventures, Marwood at first dismisses it as a delusion of dementia, but when his father dies in an accident the next day, he begins his own investigations, going on clues from his father's ramblings. 
This will draw all the players' stories together in an interesting, often suspenseful series of encounters. 
I like both Marwood and Lovett/Hakesby. Both are passionate, curious, and sometimes impulsive in their actions, but they also want to serve justice and be fair to others no matter their rank. 
I really enjoyed this followup to the first book, and look forward to seeing further tales of the central characters in the following books in the Marwood and Lovett series. 

No comments:

Post a Comment