Gregory is a marvellous writer of diabolically twisted and cunning plots that generally leave you wondering 'whodunit' until the last pages and even then throws in a curveball or two before the final solution is revealed. This is no different. Chaloner is requested to covertly look into various matters on behalf of the court but to do so it has to appear that he and Clarendon, his boss, have parted company - Clarendon as portrayed by Gregory is particularly miserly and leaps at the opportunity to save Chaloners wages for a few days missing the point that this guy is still risking his life on his behalf.
The problem, as ever, appears simple on the surface but Chaloner is soon drawn into a web of intrigue that requires all his intelligencier skills to not only solve but to ensure his own survival. This is book is number nine in the series and as such there is a lot of background that it is assumed you would know; Clarendon's relationship with Chaloner, Clarendon's precarious position within the Stuart court and his relationships with other courtiers, Chaloner's relationship with his wife, the antipathy between Chaloner and other 'professional' intelligence agents and agencies, Chaloner's family history (his Uncle was the Chaloner that signed the warrent for King Charles execution in 1649), Chaloner's relationship with his old boss John Thurloe and the 'Pillars of Hercules' owner Temperance and as all of this background has influences on the plot it is important stuff, that will leave a reader head scratching otherwise. Samuel Pepys makes another appearance albeit in the background and briefly and I wonder if this is for future plot development as we head toward 1666 and the great fire. Another good outing and I look forward to the next installment to see what other plots Gregory can thrust Chaloner into the centre of.