A midwife is a most reluctant recruit for Oliver Cromwell’s ruthless spymaster.
Lady Bridget Hodgson (The Midwife’s Tale, 2013, etc.) has fled her enemies in York only to be bored senseless by life on her country estate. Also less than pleased with country life are her spirited adopted daughter, Elizabeth, and her confidante, maidservant, and assistant midwife, Martha Hawkins. When a message comes from London telling them that Bridget’s nephew Will, Martha’s former betrothed, is imprisoned in the Tower of London, Bridget and Martha set off for London, leaving a furious Elizabeth behind. Upon their arrival, they find that Mr. Marlowe and his attractive assistant, Col. Reynolds, want them to spy for Cromwell, who’s still fighting a war of sorts against both the Royalists and the Levellers, who want freedom and equality for everyone, even women. Bridget poses as a poor widow come to town to work as a midwife, takes meager rooms in Cheapside, and befriends Katherine Chidley, another midwife who’s a force in the Levellers. When Katherine’s husband, Daniel, is murdered, Marlowe wants Bridget, assisted by Martha, Reynolds, and Will, to find his killer. Bridget soon becomes involved in both the hunt for a pitiless killer and the convoluted English politics of 1649, which pit family and friends against each other in the struggle for the heart of the country.
Thomas supplies an informed look at the English civil war from the viewpoint of everyday people while providing a mystery filled with red herrings and a surprising denouement.