Act of Oblivion
(c) 2022 Robert Harris
The puritan despot Cromwell is dead and the English king restored, but the balance books of history are not yet straight. There remain in England still breathing the men who presumed to put their king on trial, and who doubled down on their arrogance by executing him for crimes against ‘the people’. The Privy council is engaged in a hunt for the remaining regicides, and for one of their agents in particular — Nayler — it’s personal. He himself fought in defense of the King during the civil war, and it was at a celebration of Christmas Mass that he was arrested by the puritan fanatics, the stress of which caused his beloved wife to miscarry and die. Nayler will not rest in his hunt for two regicides in particular, even if he must comb the American colonies for years. Such is the premise of Act of Oblivion, which begins as an exciting thriller, as two would-be martyrs flee from England and seek shelter in the more Puritan of the American colonies. Unfortunately for the reader, and for Mssr. Nayler, the colonies are large and wild enough that the scent is lost, and most of the second half of the book sees the targets simply hiding in a basement (for years), and the increasingly dispirited Nayler resigned to killing time in England, with no real enthusiasm for life. Harris does his best to liven things up by having one of the regicides give us flashbacks from the Civil War, allowing us to witness the rise of the tyrant Cromwell, but things don’t get exciting again until the last chapter. Still, the story can’t help but command interest, spanning two continents and featuring some interesting moments in American and British history, like the Great London fire and “King Philip’s War”, also known as the First Indian War.