S G MacLean

The Bear Pit

"MacLean manages to combine a fascinating knowledge of the history of the times and actual events with a complex and intricate plot."


Oliver Cromwell is Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and some say as near a king as makes no difference. He has been ruling Britain since 1653 and splits are appearing in the support he receives from the people. Former strong advocates of his rule are now against him. There are rumours of unholy alliances between the supporters of the exiled Charles, the cavaliers, and the disappointed extreme Protestants who are unhappy with Cromwell's adoption of kingly ways. This febrile political atmosphere means that Damien Seeker, enforcer to Thurloe, Cromwell's Chief Secretary, is constantly in demand.

When a body is discovered brutally mauled by what appears to have been a vicious bear, Seeker is called in to investigate. Cromwell has banned the presence of bears in the capital and the cessation of all bearbaiting, so where has the assailant come from. The victim proves to have been a friend of one of Seekers staunch friends. His investigations lead him into plots brewing against Cromwell as well as vile and vicious practices with dogs and bears.

Seeker tracks down the perpetrators of the plots against Cromwell and manages to prevent disaster happening but not without damage to his own person and difficulties with his personal life.

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MacLean manages to combine a fascinating knowledge of the history of the times and actual events with a complex and intricate purely fictional plot. The plots against Cromwell definitely existed but the elaborate details and some of the personnel are the products of imagination. It is a great skill that the author has perfected. Damien Seeker is a complex and compelling character. In some ways amoral if his job demands it but always with a kind heart for the underdog and a sense of honour. He loves his daughter and two other women in different ways. That particular dilemma he has more difficulty in resolving. At the end of the book we are left tantalisingly unsure of the future. Seeker is known by the great and the good. Real characters who come into their own in future years cross the stage: the Tradescants senior and junior, Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn, Prince Rupert, Andrew Marvell. The religious divides of the country continue to rumble on. There are echoes in Ireland during the Troubles of what life must have been like. I am enjoying finding out more about this period from this series. It seems equally as intriguing as my first love of the Tudors.

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