Cover Image: The Crown Agent

The Crown Agent

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Member Reviews

An epic adventure across Scotland and beyond for disgraced Dr Mungo Lyon. Caught up in the Burke and Hare scandal, he is appointed as the Crown Agent to investigate the mysterious deaths of the crew of a ship found adrift off the Scottish coast and the death of a lighthouse keeper.
Full of action, intrigue and mystery I loved it.
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There’s a reason why this novel was shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year​. A few reasons, really. It hits on just about every classic Scottish mystery element readers know and love. Burke and Hare, a chase across the Highlands, a murder at a remote lighthouse, a disreputable English bureaucrat, ghost ships, and early modern medicine.

Doctor Mungo Lyon is a surgeon of some promise until his teacher and mentor Robert Knox colludes with the infamous Burke and Hare. Though many looked the other way at the unseemly process of bodysnatching for medical purposes, Burke and Hare went a step too far in procuring fresh bodies. Lyon, by association, is forced to give up his career – which makes him the perfect (desperate) candidate for a special off-the-books mission.

He is recruited by a customs officer and a Scottish Lord to investigate a ghost ship that crashes on the coast, manned entirely by deceased yellow fever victims and the possibly related murder of a lighthouse keeper nearby. And there are any number of factions who want him to fail on this mission.

Please view my full review on my site.
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I read this book more for the storyline than for research ror teaching research and must say it is a highly enjoyable story. Focusing  on the smuggling trade in early England and the dubious job of spying and customs agent, it is exciting and interesting  as they are not historical  subjects I know much about. I would thoroughly recommend and thank Netgalley, the publishers and especially the author for this great story. Thank you
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Stephen O'Rourke's first novel, a historical action adventure of daring and danger, was shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of 2020. Set in 1829, it begins with the gruesome murder of a lighthouse keeper, Sandy, on Cumbrae Island. Dr Mungo Lyon is a Edinburgh surgeon, tainted and banned from practicing because of his links with Dr Robert Knox, a man guilty of accepting dead bodies from the notorious Burke and Hare. William Burke has been hanged, whilst his partner, Hare, walks free after providing testimony that convicted Burke under the Scottish justice system. Lyon's circumstances leave him free to accept an assignment to work undercover for the crown, commissioned by the Lord Advocate and Sir John Foster, the Collector of Customs at Leith. The ship Julietta was found adrift with 8 dead crew members, all having suffered from yellow fever at Greenock port on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

The Julietta has been smuggling some form of cargo from the Caribbean to Scotland, but what it was is not clear as the ship had been unloaded, but by whom or where is not known. After the murder of Sandy, the lighthouse keeper, his assistant, Tom, has run away, raising suspicions of his guilt and there is a missing Customs Officer, Crawford McGunn. Mungo is dispatched to Glasgow to investigate, but he finds himself facing numerous attempts by nefarious shadowy individuals to kill him that he manages to avoid, finding a surprising liking for his new role that he had not expected. A journal gives him a better idea of how many travelled on the ship and its sailing journey to Glasgow and with encrypted papers that he is unable to decipher, he sends them to his sister, Margaret in Edinburgh, certain she will be able to break the code. Lyon finds himself uncovering treason, powerful traitors, and travelling to a Jamaica under British rule where slavery is still rife, and involved in events that culminate in a thrilling finale.

This is the first in a series from O'Rourke, it is fast paced, full of suspense and tension, with a wide range of colourful characters, including a able William Hare now working for the crown undercover, providing valuable aid and support to Mungo Lyon. This has a feel of the old classic historical adventure stories that so many readers love, with plenty of period details, such as the class distinctions, the poverty, the growth of the Scottish Whisky industry, and the workings of the ports and customs. Lyon makes an attractive central figure, whose medical background as a surgeon is to stand him in good stead, and whilst having lingering doubts over the need to kill, discovers he is otherwise well equipped for his new profession. Many thanks to Sandstone Press for an ARC.
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A young disgraced surgeon, Mungo Lyon, is the main protagonist of Stephen O'Rourke fiendishly clever novel "The crown agent."
Working undercover for the government, Lyon must infiltrate a corrupt network of organized crime in order to solve a murder. Unbeknownst to him this simple murder investigation will send him down a tumultuous path from Scotland to Jamaica and back, a path fraught with lots of obstacles and difficulties. Mungo's adventures (and yes they include romance) will keep you enthralled thanks to a very twisty plot and perfectly drawn characters. This wonderful novel is sometimes reminiscent of Stevenson and Conrad and I honestly hope that Mr O'Rourke will turn this very accomplished work of fiction into the first installment of a successful new series. To be enjoyed without moderation!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Sandstone for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel prior to its release date
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Debut novel brings elements of surprise to not only smuggling but the case of Burke and Hare body snatchers in Edinburgh in Victorian Scotland.
Liked the central character Dr Mungo Lyon and particularly the relationship with his younger sister Margaret, an invalid but excellent at deciphering codes and languages.  
When Mungo falls because of his involvement with Knox taking the stolen bodies his work as a leading doctor is under threat. He is then called in by people of note including the Attorney General to investigate the strange murder of a lighthouse keeper and a ghost ship with dead passengers with links to odd tattoo signs and coded messages.
It is a bit Poldark on the Scottish Isles although romance is not at the fore and perhaps female characters could have been developed more fully. The mysterious links to codes, secret agents move a regular case of smuggling illegal drink into a new realm of danger which is explored well within the plot.
I loved the descriptions of the islands and the sea around the west coast of Scotland which I have visited. 
This is probably going to start a series and could provide some entertaining follow ups.
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Disgraced Edinburgh surgeon Dr Lyons is hired to solve a mystery of a murdered lighthouse keeper, a ghost ship on the rocks with some missing cargo,and missing men. From the moment he leaves his sister with a mysterious clue and heads to Greenock he is in danger from a mysterious group of men. The men in charge of customs who hdbis to work with don't want him there and his assistance appears to be in the form of a known murderer. In this thriling tale if deceit, smuggling, murder, kidnap and slavery you are kept guessing,. Who is friend, who is foe, and who will survive in this fantastic mystery set in Scotland's docks innthe 1800s
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The Crown Agent is a thrilling novel, wonderfully laced through events occurring in 1829 Scotland, and somewhat further afield.

The writing is assured, the action fast-paced, the mystery thrilling and in need of solving, and our hero, Dr. Mungo Lyon, a fascinating and tenacious hero. I was enthralled by the attention to detail, the seamless weaving of a tale well told. And the addition of a certain character only led to the enjoyment. (No spoilers here).

A fantastic novel, helped, no doubt, by the fact I actually know my way around this part of Scotland and could picture many of the places, but with the aid of the well-drawn maps at the beginning, I'm sure anyone will enjoy it.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy. 5 stars from me:)
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