Cucumbers are apparently the latest of many dangers to life and limb in Restoration London.
Thomas Chaloner, amateur musician and talented spy, is just home from a mission in Portugal. He returns dead broke to ramshackle lodgings, ruined clothes and a letter from a musician seeking his advice. A request for back pay from his employer, the Lord Chancellor, plunges him into a dangerous investigation into the death of Newburne, a shady solicitor working for Ellis Crisp, the Butcher of Smithfield, whose gang of Hectors terrorize London. Newburne was involved in the battle between L’Estrange, publisher of an official printed newsletter full of rants and ads for stolen horses, and the more informative handwritten pamphlets disseminated by Muddiman. Though Newburne is neither the first nor last to die from cucumbers, Chaloner quickly realizes they are a cover for the real causes of death. At the same time, Chaloner is also trying to rescue his friend Leybourn from the clutches of Mary Cade, a woman with a dubious past and felonious friends. All the deaths prove to be interconnected in ways so complex that it takes help from several friends and a former spymaster before Chaloner escapes numerous death attempts and the dangers of London floods to solve the mystery.
Chaloner’s third, a mine of historical information, poses a staggeringly complicated mystery for its charming hero (Blood on the Strand, 2007, etc.).