A Reluctant Assassin, by John Pilkington

Laura Bloomfield

Pilkington proves once again how adroit he is at blending history and crime writing.
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At the beginning of A Reluctant Assassin, by John Pilkington, we are introduced to the novel’s protagonist, Will Revill. This starts a sense of intrigue that continues throughout the novel, as the reader is left clues about Revill’s past role in the military, and what he witnessed in war. Initially it seems that Revill is a hard-edged Captain, but Pilkington gives context to his trauma which helps make his character far more complex and interesting.

Revill is given the task to assassinate Sir Abel Stanbury by Sir Thomas Heneage. However, as displayed in the title, Revill has reservations. Throughout A Reluctant Assassin, the corruption of government is a constant theme as the reader is reminded of how Revill got into his position. He is a victim of blackmail, rather than a willing executioner.

Following Revill on his assassination task, the reader is privy to his moral code. His uneasiness about the assassination is clear- he repeatedly states how he is a soldier, not an assassin. Also, a large problem lies in the fact that Revill likes Sir Abel. It is not obvious why he needs to be killed as he is a seemingly decent, unthreatening figure.

A Reluctant Assassin doesn’t just concern itself with Revill’s mission. Pilkington skilfully adds other plotlines and characters. For example, the feud between Sir Abel and his neighbour, Master John Cowley, creates more complexity as the reader can see a different side to Sir Abel. There is also the plot with Richard Norris, who is not who he initially appears to be. He plays an integral role in adding action and intensity to the novel. The characters are well-written, and all have clear characteristics, whether it’s Bright’s humour, Norris’ antagonism or sympathy for Lady Gisela.

Readers will find it easy to turn the pages of A Reluctant Assassin. Pilkington proves once again how adroit he is at blending history and crime writing.

A Reluctant Assassin by John Pilkington is out now and published by Sharpe Books.