5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A sub-plot well researched,
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This review is from: The Plot Against Pepys (Paperback)
Like Pepys' famous diary, the story starts with a mix of the consequential and the inconsequential and for a while the reader has to concentrate hard to sift the pieces into a discernable whole. But then it gathers pace and the value of the meticulous research comes through as we learn the extraordinary story of Pepys' contemporary and the villain of the piece, Col. John Scott. The book covers three plots - that of Titus Oates, Pepys own, and that of Capt. James Ayres. The story really starts with the Titus Oates allegations in 1678 and Pepys' peripheral role in the hunt for Godfrey's murderer. The frightening fanatical partisanship of the London mob, the lack of balance in the justice system and the fragility of the monarchy are well portrayed as the context to Pepys' arrest. Sidelined by the trial of strength between King and Parliament, Pepys has time to marshal his defence and we are given a detailed insight into the domestic and international intrigues in which he finds himself. The more his detractors attempt to blacken Pepys, the more we too search to find an adequate motive. The answers are provided at the end of the story, but only after a third plot - that of the wrecking of the Gloucester by Ayres - nearly includes Pepys among its victims.
Politics and religion are brave subjects for any narrator and the Longs have done well to keep the tale as objective as possible. While the story may lack some of the cohesive strength of Kenyon's "Popish Plot", in focussing on the plot on Pepys, it does highlight a tributary of that Whig conspiracy that Kenyon ignores. The research is thorough, so I'd be nit-picking to point out that Pepys being `elected' by Harwich, a Parliamentary borough of 32 voters in the pocket of the Admiralty, should be explained as typical of the undemocratic majority of the members of the Commons at the time. Also the Longs suggest Pepys, in contrast to his villainous contemporary, earned his success through diligent application. Given the factional distribution of office in those days, one is bound to wonder how much Pepys deserves such an accolade: This "man on the make" to use the Longs' description, must have demonstrated some shrewd politicking himself to survive the fallout of the Anglo-French v Dutch war of 1672-4 and end up Secretary of the Admiralty, a period not explored by the Longs. Nevertheless, a reasonable perspective, especially to those new to the period.