The Queen's Man

Rory Clements. Hodder & Stoughton (IPG, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-1-848-54848-0

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. (Sept.)
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