I’m pleased to be part of virtual book tour of THE BARRISTER AND THE LETTER OF MARQUE, Todd M. Johnson’s highly acclaimed historical mystery. Check out the review of this new Regency-era novel set in London, England in this post.
The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson
Publication Date : August 3rd 2021
Publisher : Bethany House Publishers
Genre : Historical Fiction / Mystery
Pages : 412
Disclaimer : I received e-copy of this book as a part of blog tour via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Laurel @Austen Prose for tour invite and publisher, author, NetGalley for review copy.
As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.
In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.
Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.
“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly
“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City
“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code
“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction
The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was intriguing and complex historical fiction that revolved around barrister William Snopes defending the case of piracy and the mystery of Letter of Marque. The story was about greed, exploitation, deceit, corruption, determination, courage, social differences, ethics, loyalty, and friendship.
Writing was vivid, gripping, and steady paced. Story was written in multiple third person narrative mainly from William, Edmond, and Madeleine’s perspective. Setting of post Napoleonic War Regency England was atmospheric.
Plot was much more complicated than I expected. It started slow with William’s background, his style as barrister and reputation for defending poor against powerful people that caught attention of Lady Madeleine Jameson who desperately needed his help.
Madeleine invested all she had and also took a loan to buy merchant brig, the Padget, in hope of saving her estate through it as her cousin got rare privilege by King Regent’s Letter of Marque giving him permission to take over pirate ship and its cargo. But when her cousin returned with French trader’s illegally acquired tea, he was arrested in case of piracy and now she couldn’t find him in any prison. All his crew was imprisoned below deck, the brig was taken by King’s soldiers and constables, and sole proof of his innocence, Letter of Marque has disappeared.
Intrigued by story of Letter of marque, moved by Madeleine’s distress for the safety of her cousin, and name of solicitor who used him in the past, made William inquired about the case and later when he could verify Madeleine’s words, he was sure things were set up against Madeleine and her cousin.
It was interesting to see how William was going to get the proof of his client’s innocence, how he could unravel the villain’s well laid plan of his client’s demise, and to what length villain would go to get what they started.
William was fantastic throughout the book. He was smart, clever, humble, conscientious person and best barrister. I liked him for standing up against his father all those years ago, carving his own path in world and earning his name as barrister. It was great the way he took Edmund and Obadiah under his wing and trained them to be his junior barrister and his solicitor, respectively. The way he gathered information and fought the case with no evidence and only based on his assumptions and keeping the final hearing at bay until he actually could prove something was commendable.
Both Edmund and Obadiah were best friends since childhood and were great supporting characters. I liked how loyal they were to William. Obadiah was calm, kind and observant while Edmund was tenacious and hot headed. I liked how this case changed Edmund’s view.
Madeleine was most interesting character. Her determination and will was impressive. It was surprising how much risk she took to save her estate and those she loved. She was brave and courageous. I liked the way she stood up against society who let her down, boycott her, and made her family’s struggle social gossip. I admired her for not taking step back when she was threatened and not even when William and his team couldn’t find any evidence. What she did to save everything and the way she ultimately helped was amazing.
There were so many characters in this story. They all were realistic and well portrayed. Even villains were interesting to read. There was hint of romance and light spiritual and philosophical elements that was written through William’s verbal sparring with Father Thomas which was interesting to read.
I don’t know much about early 1800s or regency era, in some reviews I saw a comment about inaccuracy with historical facts with mention of penny dreadful and other things that happened much later than the time period of this story but still I enjoyed reading about law system, dressing, higher class gossips, streets of London, people suffering from taxes and tariffs, and social differences.
Best part of the book was court room drama, William and his team’s investigation, and villains’ plan. It wasn’t exactly a mystery of who were the villains and why they were doing this to Jameson family as things weren’t kept secret. It was more about how William was going to fight the case and get the evidence and it was impossible to tell with all disappearing evidences. It was like Villains were always two steps ahead of him.
All twists and turns were well written. Last 30% of the book was full of surprises. Climax was nail bitingly tense. I really thought they can’t just win the case but things changed so fast with many more surprising revelations. End was so different from what I expected and yet satisfactory. Epilogue was good.
Overall, The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was intriguing, gripping, and well written legal historical fiction with complex plot and interesting characters.
I highly recommend this if you like,
early 1800s regency era
Well written main character
Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.
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