Book Review: A Cruel Necessity by L.C. Tyler

The theatres are padlocked. Christmas has been cancelled. It is 1657 and the unloved English Republic is eight years old. Though Cromwell's joyless grip on power appears immovable, many still look to Charles Stuart's dissolute and threadbare court-in-exile, and some are prepared to risk their lives plotting a restoration.
For the officers of the Republic, constant vigilance is needed. So, when the bloody corpse of a Royalist spy is discovered on the dung heap of a small Essex village, why is the local magistrate so reluctant to investigate? John Grey, a young lawyer with no clients, finds himself alone in believing that the murdered man deserves justice. Grey is drawn into a vortex of plot and counter-plot and into the all-encompassing web of intrigue spun by Cromwell's own spy-master, John Thurloe.
So when nothing is what it seems, can Grey trust anyone?

John Grey, returning home after a night’s drinking in the village inn, meets a stranger who enquires after the innkeeper. Thinking nothing of this until a body is discovered and  no-one in the village admits to seeing the stranger, John sets off to solve the murder and becomes embroiled in more deaths and espionage along the way.

He lurches from one suspect to another in his investigation,  always one step behind and manipulated by those around him. For all his academic learning, John is outwitted by those less educated than himself. Early on in the novel I had a feeling that John was the only person in the village not in on the conspiracy and was being indulged.

John Grey is just one of  a cast of amusing and eccentric characters that populate the village, where Republicans and disenfranchised Royalists live side by side. John once held Royalist views, but now supports the Commonwealth. This all adds to John's dilemma of who to trust.

Told from John Grey’s point of view, the story held my interest. There were enough clues and suspects along the way to keep the momentum going to the surprise revelation at the end.
I found this an unusual historical mystery. The style of writing left me puzzled. It read like a comedy. I wasn't sure this was the effect the writer intended, but an internet search revealed Len Tyler is a writer of comic crime fiction and so the writing style made sense.

This was Len Tyler's first historical mystery. While being an entertaining read, I’m not sure I enjoyed this novel enough to read another in the series for no other reason than I discovered I am not a great fan of comic fiction.


  1. Thanks for the review. I haven't come across this novel before, and the setting interests me. There have been some examples of comic historical fiction that worked well for me, because I genuinely found them funny, while others fell flat. It's a difficult thing to pull off.

  2. I think I was unprepared for the style of this novel not having read any by Len Tyler before. The time period interested me too and also that the writer was attempting something different by setting this novel in a historical setting. I hope you get to read it.