Andrew Taylor is one of my favourite authors and I particularly love his Marwood and Lovett series. This is the fifth book and I think it is my favourite so far. It can also be read as a standalone; there is a helpful index of characters at the front and historical notes at the back.
The story opens in 1670 with two young girls playing at witchcraft. Soon afterwards, the step-father of one dies in mysterious and agonising circumstances. A government clerk known for gambling and drinking, unpopular with his family and in debt to a local villain, it is only surprising no one has killed him before now. James Marwood, tasked with retrieving some sensitive government files from the man's house, suspects his death is not quite as it appears. Marwood begins an investigation, only to find himself - and the lives of those around him - in real danger.
Meanwhile, Cat Lovett's architecture business is going from strength to strength and she's been handed a commission to design a poultry house for the woman the King loves most in the world - but is she being used as a royal pawn?
The Royal Secret is set during one of my favourite time periods and I love all the historical details, particularly the glimpses into royal life, which is not quite as glamorous as one would hope! There is lots of spy-like intrigue as Marwood tries to track down the utterly ruthless killer. Cat receives an all-expenses paid trip to France (which doesn't go quite the way she is hoping) and there is even an appearance by a real lion. My only quibble with the story is that Cat allows herself to become distracted by a pretty face. I had thought she was smarter than that!