Priest of Gallows – Peter McLean

Survivor of a terrible war now recruited into the shadowy enforcers of law, the Queen’s Men, Father Tomas Pious may have learned to control his temper and his drinking somewhat but he is far from in control of his own destiny, though at least in his own home in remote Ellinburg he has a degree of autonomy over the streets which he governs in the name of the crown.

That relative respite is disrupted by a communication from the distant capital written ambiguously so as to be opaque should it be intercepted but with an apparent meaning to those with the right insight: the queen has been assassinated, and having only one child not yet of age, the result will be a power vacuum which would be dangerous even in a stable situation, and even at his remove Tomas realises the summons to Dannsburg is not optional.

The third book in what was conceived as a trilogy, Peter McLean’s Priest of Gallows now carries the broader title of what was perhaps inevitable whether admitted or not, the next stage in the escalating War for the Rose Throne, now spinning into realms beyond the control of the Queen’s Men and their sinister leader, Lord Chief Judiciar Dieter Vogel, the manipulations of the man known to his brethren as Father Secrets prompting the need for a concluding fourth volume, the forthcoming Priest of Crowns.

With almost two years passed since the publication of Priest of Lies, McLean drops usually painful reminders of earlier bloody acts and unseemly incidents as steps are retraced, but now the Priest of Gallows stands on a larger board, noose in hand, the pieces more numerous and of more powerful position, yet the game remaining the same even if some of the moves are conducted in the dark, Piety witness to interrogations and closed courtroom proceedings where the verdict has already been ascertained before the accused is even presented.

From the spectacle of a truly unique state funeral to the public execution of a fool whose unforgivable crime was to offend the dignity of the crown, from the power of the sea to the inevitable and unavoidable storm, it is a dirty game of low cunning which plays to the power of the mob waiting to be led in “the city of lies and whispers and treachery,” Piety a well-dressed pawn for all the sharpness of his swords and the power of the warrant he carries, one who is increasingly uncomfortable with the tasks he is called upon to undertake without question on tenuous justification.

A former soldier accustomed to the clarity of the battlefield now acting as agent for an unaccountable master operating to a secret agenda, Piety suspects the most dangerous foe is the one who employs him and who he cannot strike at or even criticise when eyes and ears are everywhere and favour can be gained by labelling apprehension as treason, but even for Piety who has witnessed horrors his trepidation is insufficient as his fears and ingrained trauma rise from the ashes like a cursed phoenix which will rain down fire on Dannsburg.

Priest of Gallows is available now from Jo Fletcher Books