Includes BONUS short story
*****Part of the bestselling John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers from Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award*****
'[Clements] does for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's' Sunday Times
England is a Judas nest of conspiracy
It is 1582, and the conflict between Protestant and Catholic threatens to tear the country in two. While Queen Elizabeth I holds the reins of power, there are those whose loyalty lies with her imprisoned cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.
On his first major mission for Sir Francis Walsingham, the young John Shakespeare is ordered to discover a conspiracy to free the Stuart queen from Sheffield Castle. All too soon, he realises that the tentacles of the plot reach deep into his native Warwickshire and threaten his own friends and family. His duty lies with Elizabeth - but how far will he go to protect those he loves?
Clements's solid sixth John Shakespeare thriller (after 2013's The Heretics), a prequel to the series, charts John's suspenseful first missions for Elizabeth I's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. In 1578, John, the older brother of playwright William, travels from London to Sheffield Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, is being held, in order to assess the castle's security, which may be inadequate. Walsingham hopes that John's report of his findings will persuade Elizabeth that another prison is needed. On his next assignment, the intelligencer seeks to root out suspected treason fomented by Catholic sympathizers of Mary who also intend to assassinate the queen. His pursuit of them leads him to a murder that's officially considered a suicide and to evidence that his own kin may be implicated in heresy. The author's diligent historical research is manifest on every page, and John's already rich characterization is enhanced by this portrayal of him as a less experienced operative.