The House of Lamentations
By S. G. MacLean
The 5th and final book in the Damian Seeker series.
Bruges, 1658. Damian Seeker, Captain of Cromwell’s Guard, is dead. Or so he would have people believe. Now he’s just an English carpenter in Bruges – albeit one who takes a keen interest in the comings and goings of Royalists in exile there.
He is keeping a particularly close eye on four impoverished Royalists in the Bouchoute House. These men plan to convey a vast fortune to Charles Stuart, but they are unaware that one amongst them is a traitor to their cause.
Seeker has been cultivating this turncoat, but now news reaches him from England that the Royalists are sending an assassin to identify this spy and exact revenge. This would inevitably betray his own identity – and he could expect no mercy.
Once Seeker would have been happy to die in the service of the Republic. Now, though, the Commonwealth he sacrificed so much for is crumbling while back in London are Seeker’s daughter, his friends and the woman he loves: a life worth living for, which is exactly what Seeker intends to do. He just needs to find this assassin before they find him.
Bruges, The Engels Klooster
Sister Janet almost jumped out of her skin when the bell by the night door of the Engels Klooster began to clang, only a few feet from her ear. It happened every time it was her turn to watch; she drifted into sleep only to be rudely awakened at the most inopportune of times. The warmth of the fire and the comfort of the cushion that she smuggled under her habit every night made it almost impossible to keep her eyes open. She had heard the young novices giggling about it once, but at sixty-seven years of age, and thirty of them spent here at the Engels Klooster, Sister Janet feared neither novice, Mother Superior, nor the Pope himself, should he appear in Bruges and choose to take issue with her cushion.
Muttering loudly about inconvenience and lack of consideration, Sister Janet straightened her veil and shuffled towards the door. Lifting her candle, she drew back the small wooden panel that was level with her eye and peered out.
‘Well? Who is it that disturbs the peace of an honest Christian woman tonight?’
The response was in Flemish, and the voice instantly recognisable. Jakob van Hjul, the carter. ‘Well, Jakob,’ she demanded, also in Flemish, ‘and who have you brought to me tonight?’
‘I think it is surely your sister, for never have I come across a more disagreeable woman, unless all Englishwomen of your years be the same.’
She tried to peer out beyond him but could make out nothing. ‘I never had a sister save those called to God in this house, you rogue. Have you come from the coast tonight?’
‘Aye, and a troublesome journey I’ve had of it.’
Sister Janet slid back the bolt and opened the door. ‘When did you ever claim anything else? You are paid well enough for your trouble. Now step aside and let the lady come in.’
As the carter went to see to his cargo, Sister Janet saw that not one but two women were perched up on the driver’s bench. She took a step out onto Speelmansstraat, and then another, then held up her lamp, very close now to where the women sat. The younger of the two, clearly a maidservant, was readying herself to get down in order to help her mistress alight, as the carter was showing no sign of doing so. Like most people, Sister Janet paid little attention to maidservants, and craned her neck a little to see past her to the mistress. What she saw almost made her drop her lamp. The woman looked back at her and favoured her with that well-remembered crooked smile.
‘Well I’ll be damned,’ said Sister Janet at last.
‘Yes, Janet,’ returned the woman. ‘I’ve no doubt you will.’
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The House of Lamentations
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S.G. (Shona) MacLean was born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands where her parents were hoteliers. She studied at Aberdeen University and has a PhD in Seventeenth Century Scottish History. Married to a schoolteacher, she began writing whilst bringing up her four children (and a series of Labradors) on the Banffshire coast. She has now returned to live in the Highlands. She has two series of historical crime – the Alexander Seaton series set in 1620s and 30s Scotland and Ireland and the Damian Seeker series set mainly in 1650s England. The Seeker series has twice won the CWA Historical Dagger, for which the 4th book in the series, ‘The Bear Pit’, is currently shortlisted.
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx