Death and the Chevalier

Summary - Historical Background - Review

November, 1745.  Preston, Lancashire.  Rumours abound that Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, has landed in Scotland, intent on marching south to claim the English throne.  Meanwhile, a headless body is discovered in an icy pond. Titus Cragg thinks he has a lead when a head is eventually found, only to discover that it belongs to a different body.

Could there be a connection to the approaching rebel army? Or is someone using the Highlanders’ invasion as a cover-up for murder?

As simmering tensions, conflicting loyalties and open hostilities split the town, Cragg finds himself arrested for murder. In order to clear his name and escape execution by firing squad, Titus must team up with his old friend, Dr Luke Fidelis, to expose the real killer.

Death and the Chevalier (ISBN: 978 0 7278 8920 1) is published by Severn House on 31 December 2019 in the UK and on 1 April 2020 in the USA.

Historical Background

The novel closely follows actual historical events in Lancashire in the winter of 1745-6. The Chevalier (pronounced 'Chevaleer') Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) having landed in Scotland with a handful of supporters quickly raised an 8000-strong army of Scots highlanders and at first swept all before him. Having secured Scotland he marched south through Lancashire, where he overnighted in Lancaster, Preston, Wigan and Manchester, before reaching Derby. Here his generals refused to go any further south, citing the feeble level of local English support for the venture. The Scots army then marched back the way they had come, once again spending the night at Preston en route. Some months later they were catastrophically defeated by the Hanoverian forces under the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness. After this defeat the Prince spent weeks on the run "in the heather"  but was never caught and eventually escaped back to Europe. It was the final end of Jacobite attempts to regain the English throne for the Stuart dynasty.

Review

Reception by AMAZON buyers for DEATH AND THE CHEVALIER has been generally positive with mainly 5-star reviews. This is what one has to say.

***** Review in the United Kingdom on 19 January 2021 by 'Fountain Pen' [Amazon purchase]

This novel successfully fits its plot within factual historical events relating to Preston during the Jacobite rebellion in the mid-1740s. The reader barely has time to draw breath, let alone get bored, as the pendulum of fate swings back and forth at bewildering speed. Blake immerses his novel fully into the period. It is as if the reader has travelled back in time to witness these events first hand. We are familiar enough now with his two central characters and their immediate circle, and we meet several new and fascinating major players in this crime drama. If I had to pick a fault as if my life depended on it, I would argue that the ending is a bit sudden -- not rushed, but unsatisfyingly sudden. But it still works, and, like the others in the series, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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