Marbeck and the Double-Dealer

John Pilkington. Severn, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8239-4

Pilkington, best known for his Thomas the Falconer mysteries (The Muscovy Chain, etc.), launches a new Elizabethan historical series with this promising novel introducing spy Martin Marbeck. After a botched mission overseas that left a colleague captive, Marbeck is charged by his spymaster, Sir Robert Cecil, the queen’s secretary of state, to identify the mole within English intelligence who’s working for the Spanish. The mole hunt focuses first on two men Cecil suspects, but Marbeck’s initial inquiries point elsewhere, and the trail soon takes him across the channel to France. The murder of one of the two original suspects offers another wrinkle in his search. Rory Clements, Karen Harper, Fiona Buckley, and others have swelled the number of Elizabethan whodunits of late. Pilkington’s brisk pacing and gift at descriptions will make this a welcome addition to their ranks, even if the plotting and characterizations aren’t as sophisticated as the best in the subgenre. (Apr.)