Book Review: Legacy: A Justice Belstrang Mystery by John Pilkington

Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Pub date: 16 June 2020



Robert Belstrang, ex-magistrate bored with country life, comes to London to investigate the strange disappearance of Thomas Jessop, son of a poor Catholic neighbour. He locates the youth in Bedlam asylum, silent and starving himself. When he tries to free Jessop, he is warned off the case by a politic lawyer, Anstis. Soon after, Belstrang finds himself drugged, robbed and falsely imprisoned.

Once released Belstrang persists in his investigation, but he is thwarted at every turn: unseen forces are at work who seemingly want Thomas Jessop to die. When Belstrang confronts Anstis, even he turns up dead.

The trail grows murkier by the hour, drawing Belstrang into the fear-ridden Catholic underworld – until he uncovers a plan with its roots in the Gunpowder Plot of more than a decade ago. Young Thomas, an embittered papist, was being used in a desperate scheme to mark the anniversary of the Plot. The scheme failed โ€“ and now the conspirators seem eager to cover up the whole business.

But Belstrangโ€™s a stubborn man. With the help of ex-soldier Daniel Oldrigg, he sticks doggedly to his purpose – and stumbles on the real causes of the Anniversary Plot, which stem from the very heart of a corrupt government.

Belstrang must uncover the truth, or die trying.

As a big fan of Pilkington’s, Thomas the Falconer series I was looking forward to a new book with new characters and this did not disappoint!

As you can tell from the blurb the book follows ex-magistrate Belstrang as he sets off to locate a friend’s soon only to become embroiled in what appears to be a plot against the Kings life. The plot failed but just knowing about it puts Belstrang in extreme danger from very unexpected quarters.

This is a very fast paced book with lots going on, I was engaged from the beginning and read this in one sitting.  This is a great storyline full of twists and an unexpected reveal at the end. I always enjoy how Pilkington weaves history with fiction. It was particularly interesting to read how catholics may have been treated during the reign of James I especially following the Gunpowder Plot.

As always, the characters are fabulous,  I loved Belstrang and Oldrigg and enjoyed how their relationship developed although I certainly wasn’t expecting that last twist, (I won’t say anymore as I hate spoilers).
George (Belstrangโ€™s son-in-law) comes across as arrogant and rude at first but I grew to like him by the end.

Pilkington is great at painting a picture of the surroundings and this book, as with his others makes you feel you are there. In this particular book, walking through the streets of London in the mud with rain hitting your face or wandering Whitehall where suspicion is high on everyone’s agenda.

Without revealing anything I do wish there’d been a little more about a couple of people at the end and their fate but maybe there will be another Belstrang Mystery, I certainly hope so!

If you are looking for a fast paced mystery with great characters then I highly recommend Legacy.

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