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1592. England and Spain are at war, yet there is peril at home, too. The death of her trusted spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham has left Queen Elizabeth vulnerable. Conspiracies multiply. The quiet life of John Shakespeare is shattered by a summons from Robert Cecil, the cold but deadly young statesman who dominated the last years of the Queen’s long reign, insisting Shakespeare re-enter government service. His mission: to find vital papers, now in the possession of the Earl of Essex.
Essex is the brightest star in the firmament, a man of ambition. He woos the Queen, thirty-three years his senior, as if she were a girl his age. She is flattered by him—despite her loathing for his mother, the beautiful, dangerous Lettice Knollys who presides over her own glittering court—a dazzling array of the mad, bad, dangerous and disaffected. When John Shakespeare infiltrates this dissolute world he discovers not only that the Queen herself is in danger—but that he and his family is also…[more]
From Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, comes The Heretics, the fifth in his acclaimed John Shakespeare Elizabethan mystery series.
England may have survived the Armada threat of 1588, but when Spanish galleys land troops in Cornwall on a lightning raid seven years later, is it a dry-run for a new invasion? Or is there, perhaps, a more sinister motive? The Queen is speechless with rage.
But as intelligencer John Shakespeare tries to get a grip on events, one by one his network of spies is horribly murdered. What has all this to do with Thomasyn Jade, a girl driven to the edge of madness by the foul rituals of exorcism? And what is the link to a group of priests held prisoner in bleak Wisbech Castle? …[more]
Spring 1593. England is a powder keg of rumour and fear. Plague rages, famine is rife, the ageing Queen’s couriers scheme: Elizabeth’s Golden Age is truly tarnished. Meanwhile Spain watches and waits—and plots.
Into this turmoil a small cart clatters through the streets of London, carrying a deadly load. It is the first in a wave of horrific bombing attacks on the Dutch immigrant community that will change John Shakespeare’s life for ever.
Driven on by cold rage, Shakespeare’s investigations will take him from magnificent royal horseraces to the opulent chambers of Black Luce’s brothel, from the theatrical underworld of Marlowe and Kyd to the pain-wracked torture cells of priest-hunter Richard Topcliffe, and from the elegant offices of master tactician Robert Cecil to the splintering timbers of an explosive encounter at sea.
As Shakespeare delves ever deeper, he uncovers intricate layers of mystery and deception that threaten the heart not only of the realm, but of all that he holds dear.