The five books in the Seeker Series by S. G. MacLean carry you into a politically challenging period.
We meet Damian Seeker in 1654 when Oliver Cromwell is Lord Protector with almost unlimited powers.
There is general unrest everywhere. People fight for free speech and printers work overtime to make news pamphlets.
To stay ahead of riots, plots to restore the Royal Family to the throne, and attempts to kill the Lord Protector, Cromwell’s government has a Secret Service led by John Thurloe. One of his Intelligence Officers is Captain Damian Seeker.
In book #1, Elias Ellingworth, a lawyer and journalist, is arrest for first degree murder. Even though lawyers and journalists were despised and a threat to Cromwell, Seeker has doubts about the man’s guilt and goes to talk to him in his cell in the Tower of London. How easy it would have been for him to let Elias rot there. Nobody would question it. The case would be closed, and everyone would move on. But the facts did not add up and instead of doing what is easy, Seeker did what is difficult. He talked to someone he did not agree with on any subject.
Throughout the five books, Elias and Seeker continue to have a strained relationship. They differ in everything but somehow, mutual respect and even trust forms. There is of course more. Maria, Elias’ sister, manages to set into motion the slow awakening of Seeker’s frozen emotions.
He had his reasons to close his heart. He was publicly abandoned by a wife who took his daughter Manon away from him. Becoming a soldier just sealed the ironclad lock on his emotions.
Seeker is not made into a tall handsome guy who makes women swoon at first sight. MacLean also does not make excuses for his behavior. He is as flawed in the last book as he was in the first. But despite the flaws and the hard life he leads, bit by bit you warm up to Seeker because despite the rough appearance and ice-cold behavior, you start to see his humanity. Despite their criminal activities, he can still respect his suspects, and even like them, for the parts of them that are human.
The essence of Seeker is summed up best in book #4, the Bear Pit, on pages 203-204. Andrew Marvell, poet and trusted friend, wonders: “People didn’t just carry on regardless when Seeker turned up. There was a tendency to silence, a hiatus in movement, before everyone suddenly found reason to be elsewhere. It was not just amongst the guilty that such was the case. Those of blameless life were equally dumbstruck and guilt-ridden at the Captain’s arrival anywhere. Even in the guardrooms of Horse Guards Yard it was the same. Marvell wondered how it made Seeker feel, this power he had to arrest the motions of others, kill dead their conversations. He wondered if the man was ever lonely.”
One of my favorite characters in this series is Lady Anne Winter. She has a very strained relationship with Seeker as well yet somehow a bond develops. Whatever she does as a Royalist spy, she is at her best when she is just Lady Anne Winter. She will loyally do what is expected of her as a spy. But when confronted with young people in trouble, especially young women, she does what is right.
I never like to read fight scenes in a book. I skip to the part where the story picks up again. Not so much here. I still do not care for fight scenes, but Maclean’s are brief, to the point, and every movement plays to the characters’ strength. There is not much embellishment with gory details or a flood of adjectives and that is something else I like.
MacLean has delivered. With a Ph.D. in History and specialization in 16th and 17th century Scottish History, she picked a challenging time period to set her series of historical fiction. She does not overwhelm the reader with too many details about the politics of the time. The reader gets just enough to follow the characters and to be comfortable in the story’s time.
Book five is the conclusion of the Seeker series. In the author’s notes and at the book’s ending, however, is a hint that the door is kept open, and I am all for it.
Highly recommended reading.
*reposted from DCC