Spring, 1648. When Thomas Hill, a bookseller living in rural Hampshire, publishes a political pamphlet he has little idea of the trouble that will follow. He is quickly arrested, forced on a boat to Barbados and condemned to life as a slave to two of the island’s most notoriously violent brothers. In England war has erupted again, with London under threat of attack. When news of the king’s execution reaches the island, political stability is threatened and a fleet commanded by Sir George Ayscue arrives to take control of the island for Cromwell. The threat of violence increases. Thomas finds himself witness to abuse, poison, rape and savage brutality. When a coded message from Ayscue to a sympathiser on the island is intercepted, Thomas is asked to decipher it. A disastrous battle seems inevitable. But nothing turns out as planned. And as the death toll mounts, the escape Thomas has been relying on seems ever more unlikely...
Summer, 1643 England is at war with itself. King Charles I has fled London, his negotiations with Parliament in tatters. The country is consumed by bloodshed. For Thomas Hill, a man of letters quietly running a bookshop in the rural town of Romsey, knowledge of the war is limited to the rumours that reach the local inn. When a stranger knocks on his door one night and informs him that the king's cryptographer has died, everything changes. Aware of Thomas's background as a mathematician and his expertise in codes and ciphers, the king has summoned him to his court in Oxford. On arrival, Thomas soon discovers that nothing at court is straightforward. There is evidence of a traitor in their midst. Brutal murder follows brutal murder. And when a vital message encrypted with a notoriously unbreakable code is intercepted, he must decipher it to reveal the king's betrayer and prevent the violent death that failure will surely bring.
The king’s coronation brings hope. Until a murderer strikes. Spring 1661: After years of civil war followed by Oliver Cromwell's joyless rule as Lord Protector, England awaits the coronation of King Charles II. The mood in London is one of relief and hope for a better future. But when two respectable gentlemen are found in a foul lane with their throats cut, it becomes apparent that England’s enemies are using the newly re-established post office for their own ends. There are traitors at work and plans to overthrow the king. Another war is possible. Thomas Hill, in London visiting friends, is approached by the king’s security advisor and asked to take charge of deciphering coded letters intercepted by the post office. As the body count rises and the killer starts preying on women, the action draws closer to Thomas – and his loved ones. He finds himself dragged into the hunt for the traitors and the murderer, but will he find them before it’s too late?
Mac Griswold's The Manor is the biography of a uniquely American place that has endured through wars great and small, through fortunes won and lost, through histories bright and sinister—and of the family that has lived there since its founding as a Colonial New England slave plantation three and a half centuries ago. In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowing along a Long Island creek when she came upon a stately yellow house and a garden guarded by looming boxwoods. She instantly knew that boxwoods that large—twelve feet tall, fifteen feet wide—had to be hundreds of years old. So, as it happened, was the house: Sylvester Manor had been held in the same family for eleven generations. Formerly encompassing all of Shelter Island, New York, a pearl of 8,000 acres caught between the North and South Forks of Long Island, the manor had dwindled to 243 acres. Still, its hidden vault proved to be full of revelations and treasures, including the 1666 charter for the land, and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson. Most notable was the short and steep flight of steps the family had called the "slave staircase," which would provide clues to the extensive but little-known story of Northern slavery. Alongside a team of archaeologists, Griswold began a dig that would uncover a landscape bursting with stories. Based on years of archival and field research, as well as voyages to Africa, the West Indies, and Europe, The Manor is at once an investigation into forgotten lives and a sweeping drama that captures our history in all its richness and suffering. It is a monumental achievement.