A well-conceived historical novel is a fine thing indeed.

Throw in some she-spies, shed loads of intrigue and the gritty, dark and turbulent world of mid-seventeenth-century Civil War England and surely you’re onto a winner? Well, Pete Langman’s enjoyable Killing Beauties has all those things, and more.

Langman’s well-researched novel focuses on Susan Hyde, a real-life figure. A gentlewoman and the sister of Edward Hyde, one of exiled Charles Stuart’s top advisers, Susan is most likely unknown to most modern audiences and yet she was one of many women important to the Restoration effort. As a ‘she-intelligencer’ extraordinaire, Susan Hyde was part of a pro-Royalist female spy network operating in England.

It’s this that forms the central basis of Langman’s novel, Susan and fellow she-spy Diana tasked with undermining Cromwell’s Protectorate by extracting information from secretary to the council of state John Thurloe. A popular figure in literature, Thurloe was also a spymaster, with his own comprehensive anti-Royalist intelligence operation which stretched across Europe.

In Killing Beauties, Langman blends fact with fiction, sometimes manipulating history a tad to fit his very accessible plot. Perhaps more importantly though, his novel shines a spotlight on a much neglected subject – the significance of women in shaping history.

Susan’s role in aiding the Restoration has pretty much been been ignored, arguably most by the brother who used her for his own ends. Here, she gets a moment in the sun in an extremely readable story in which smart women are allowed to rise to the fore. And anything empowering women, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, can only be to the greater good.



Pete Langman | Killing Beauties| 23 January 2020 | Unbound | paperback | £9.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour.

See also: ‘Doug Johnstone’s A Dark Matter’;Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; ‘Marnie Riches’ Backlash’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; ‘The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; ‘Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime’ (book covers we love).

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