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“Martyr ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 18/03/2009

Rory Clements
Bantam, May 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9780385342827

In 1587 Queen Elizabeth considers the consequences of executing her prime rival Mary, Queen of Scots vs. keeping the threat of revolt by leaving her alive. At the same time, English spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham learns of an assassination plot from a reliable source that the Spanish want to kill naval hero Sir Francis "El Draque" Drake; his murder would cause havoc in the country as he has caused trouble for Spain and known for sailing around the world.

Walsingham assigns assistant secretary and chief intelligencer John Shakespeare to investigate the scheme and quickly concludes the Drake plot is tied to the murder of a relative of the Queen Lady Blanche Howard, whose corpse mutilated with numerous stabbings was found in a London fire. John's inquiries angers the Queen's loyal supporter Richard Topcliffe, who uses torture to obtain confessions from Her Highness' enemies especially Catholics. Richard warns John to back off or he will come after Shakespeare's father, who empathizes with Catholics, and insure his brother's writing and acting career fails.

This is a superb Elizabethan thriller starring Will's older brother John just prior to the execution of Mary and a tear before the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The investigations into the murder of Elizabeth's cousin and the conspiracy to kill Drake are top rate especially the way Rory Clements ties them together. With a deep look at the era as well, Elizabethan period and historical mystery fans will appreciate this delightful novel.

Harriet Klausner

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