I was fascinated by the awful political dynamics that are the heart of this story. Titus, the instigator who creates such havoc, is an opportunist who happens to strike gold with his vicious lies about people.
The character Titus reminded me of Eugene McCarthy who created the public panic about communism in the 1950s and destroyed people with his accusations. In Restoration London, it was Catholicism that was the evil philosophy rather than communism, and the accused were brutally executed.
The lies started by Titus and his friends took on a life on their own and fired up the public. It reminded me of how lies and rumors spread on social media these days. Eventually, the truth seems to become irrelevant.
As demonstrated in this book, humans have a history of imprisoning and torturing people to get them to agree to be witnesses to almost any story. In our time, we have seen how waterboarding has accomplished the same kinds of results.
I was struck by how fortunate we are in our society to have freedom of religion and basic civil rights, including protection from torture and imprisonment without charges being made.
Sheena MacLeod is very careful to base her story on historical facts about these events. The complex dynamics of the politics are carefully depicted and the characters on both sides are well drawn. While my sympathies are with the accused Catholics, I understood why Titus and the other conspiracy mongers did what they did. Titus is a horrible person, but I could see that his complete failure in life had driven him to these evil actions. When one is begging in the streets, it certainly could inspire a person to do awful things.
I was especially pleased to see the women in the book take an active part in fighting for truth and justice. I think it’s unfortunate that so much of historical fiction seems to make women into characters who are victims of circumstances, rather than people who stand up for themselves and people they love.
I highly recommend Reign of the Marionettes to anyone who is interested in politics as well as history and who loves gripping stories.