If you enjoy historical fiction and a good mystery, you need to check out the John Shakespeare series by Rory Clements. There are five books in the John Shakespeare series of Elizabethan mysteries: MARTYR, shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award, REVENGER, winner of the 2010 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, PRINCE, shortlisted for the 2011 Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, TRAITOR and THE HERETICS. A TV series based on the books is currently in development.
The newest book in the series, The Queen’s Man, will be released tomorrow, February 25, 2014. I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I LOVED it.
England is a viper’s nest of conspiracy.
It is 1852, and the conflict between Protestants and Catholics 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 untangle a conspiracy to free the Stuart queen from Sheffield Castle. All too soon, he realizes 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?
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John Shakespeare is William’s older brother, and it was a joy entering the Elizabethan era from his perspective. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I am a huge fan of all British history, and the saga of Queen Elizabeth and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, is among my favorite events. So when John is sent to Sheffield to see if there is any truth to the rumor that Mary’s supporters are trying to help her escape her castle prison, I was hooked from the get-go.
The book is incredibly well written, the cast of characters is entertaining, and the description of the historical settings – from the English Queen’s court to the Scottish Queen’s prison – are outstanding.
There are many players in this mystery, and the author masterfully keeps the moving pieces easy to follow and interlocking. While John gets to the bottom of the plot to help Queen Mary escape, he discovers lifelong friends from his home in Stratford-on-Avon are implicated – which would make them guilty of treason against Queen Elizabeth. Should John help or believe his friends, he could be considered a traitor also.
The plot unfolds beautifully as John uncovers secrets in several arenas: Elizabeth’s Court, the Catholic Church and his hometown. His loyalties to Crown and Country are tested as he navigates between supporting his Queen and discovering the truth. I don’t want to give too much away – the best part of the mystery is experiencing John solve it.
If you enjoy court intrigue and this time period, you should read this book – and the rest of the series immediately! -kris