On Sale: May 19, 2009
Featuring: John Shakespeare; Elizabeth I
Buy at Amazon.com
In this ingenious debut, Rory Clements introduces John Shakespeare, Elizabethan England’s most remarkable investigator, and delivers a tale of murder and conspiracy that succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and a crime thriller.
In a burnt-out house, one of Queen Elizabeth’s aristocratic cousins is found murdered, her flesh marked with profane symbols. At the same time a plot is discovered to assassinate England’s feared sea warrior Sir Francis Drake – a plot which, if successful, could leave the country open to Spanish invasion.
The year is 1587. One man is charged with the desperate task of solving both cases: John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in Sir Francis Walsingam’s spy network. With the Spanish Armada poised to strike, Mary Queen of Scots awaiting execution and the pikes above London Bridge decorated with the severed heads of traitors, the country is in peril of being overwhelmed by fear, chaos and religious strife.
Following a trail of illicit passions and family secrets, Shakespeare travels through a teeming underworld of enemy agents, sorcerers, whores and poets, among whom is his own younger brother, the struggling playmaker Will.
Gradually unravelling a complex conspiracy of international intrigue – and shadowed at every turn by his deadly rival, the Queen’s brutal torturer Richard Topcliffe – John Shakespeare soon realises his own family and the beautiful woman he desires are in grave danger of becoming the next martyrs to a passion for murder.
John Shakespeare looked around the gloomy shell of the house. It was remarkably intact, given the ferocity of the fire described by the constable. Something caught his eye on the sodden floor. He picked it up. It was a paper, wet and unreadable. Then he saw that there were more papers lying around amongst the burnt stubble of thatching.
Some of the papers had distinguishable words and all of them were unfolded, which almost certainly meant they were new printed. He signalled to Boltfoot Cooper. ‘Gather them all up.’
There were other things, too: type sorts for printing. But no sign of a press.
‘All of it, Boltfoot, the type sorts, too. I will examine it all later. Perhaps we can find the letter foundry where it was made. Now, Mr Stocker, where is the body?’
Above them the roof was burnt Read More…