Decision Most Deadly – Mark Turnbull

I have a confession to make. My knowledge of the English Civil War is thin to say the least. I did wonder therefore whether I was in a suitable position therefore to judge fairly Mark Turnbull’s Decision Most Deadly, as it is that very period that the book concerns itself with. It is also self-published, and that usually makes me a little nervous! I do however love a good story, and this is a piece of historical fiction, so why not?

The protagonist of our tale is Sir Charles Berkely. A soldier whose political leanings have always tended to be in the direction of Parliament, Sir Charles is, in the first instance, quite content with life whilst at the same time recognising that London could soon be embroiled in violence. The reason behind this? The fact that Parliament was flexing its muscles and attempting to strip King Charles I of his remaining powers (despite Charles I already having made plenty of concessions by this stage).

Berkely has returned to London having fought with distinction in the Bishop’s War, and thanks to this recognition has managed to find himself a patron. Before long, he will find himself being presented to the King himself. He has unwittingly already met his nemesis in the poisonous Sir Arthur Cotton during the fighting, and it is this relationship along with that he has with his wife Anne, that the story depends upon as its key sub-plots. Cotton is a wonderful baddie, the character superbly interwoven with the main theme of the novel.

And of course the main theme of the novel is that deadly decision that Charles must make – King or Parliament? 1641, the year in which our story is set was an extremely volatile period of time from a political standpoint. With the mob running riot on the streets of London, you could very easily find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a very subtle fashion, Turnbull generates the sense of fear and agitation that pervaded, culminating in a skilfully constructed and absorbing finale. He dextrously blends all aspects of life during this climactic period of British history and seamlessly integrates his evident knowledge of the subject into a captivating narrative.

Every month, there are generally in excess of 500 history, non-fiction and biographical books published in the UK. Many of these are by well known authors and historians, and many of them will land on my desk. At the same time, there are also a great many that are unlikely to appear on the radar. I’m very pleased that Decision Most Deadly wasn’t one of those.

Jonny Mardling

Jonny Mardling

Jonny Mardling is the Editor of The History Herald. He has a keen interest in Second World War and Cold War history, and with a great grandfather who was killed during the Battle of the Somme, he also has a fascination with First World War history.

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