Book Review: TRAITOR IN THE ICE by K. J. Maitland

Title in white on dark grey with drak grey trees at the corners
Genre: Historical Mystery
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: second book



Book cover for TRAITOR IN THE ICE: title in yellow on avenue of icy trees

Winter, 1607. A man is struck down in the grounds of Battle Abbey, Sussex. Before dawn breaks, he is dead.

Home to the Montagues, Battle has caught the paranoid eye of King James. The Catholic household is rumoured to shelter those loyal to the Pope, disguising them as servants within the abbey walls. And the last man sent to expose them was silenced before his report could reach London.

Daniel Pursglove is summoned to infiltrate Battle and find proof of treachery. He soon discovers that nearly everyone at the abbey has something to hide – for deeds far more dangerous than religious dissent. But one lone figure he senses only in the shadows, carefully concealed from the world. Could the notorious traitor Spero Pettingar finally be close at hand?

As more bodies are unearthed, Daniel determines to catch the culprit. But how do you unmask a killer when nobody is who they seem?

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


TRAITOR IN THE ICE is, as the name suggests, an mystery set in an ice bound world. It is a bitterly cold winter, and that is palpable in the telling – made more intense by the fact that Daniel is a servant at Battle Abbey (so not able to just hunker down by the fire) and also trying to spy (thus having to go outside in the dark to sneak.) Reading this in winter, I very much pitied him having to go outside!

This also means that Daniel is undercover, in a wealthy, paranoid household. I really enjoyed seeing the domestic side of a big household (as often the rich people are the focus of historical novels) and it’s packed full of details of working life. Plus it puts added obstacles in Daniel’s way to uncover the truth (chores, a suspicious steward determined to turf him out.)

I have been enjoying how the supernatural has been woven into this series – as part of people’s belief, but never proven real. It’s nice that that belief (and it was knitted into everyday) was acknowledged, but I do prefer it to be proved very much a mortal invention to explain what’s happening around them!

The “back in London” chapters are hinting that the web of secrets Daniel has unintentionally snared himself in is bigger and more dangerous than expected. There are a lot of players in the game, some of whom are not as obviously involved yet. Plus there is the looming mystery of Spero and who he might be. There is at least one more book in that series and I am hoping for some answers!

Read my reviews of other books by K. J. Maitland:

Daniel Pursglove (this series):


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