cover image The Assassin of Verona

The Assassin of Verona

Benet Brandreth. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-68177-876-1

Brandreth’s excellent sequel to 2018’s The Spy of Venice, which featured a young William Shakespeare, opens with a prologue set in 1585 Rome, where the newly anointed Pope Sixtus V plots to depose the “heretic Queen Elizabeth” through a network of spies he’s established in England. Sixtus orders four priests to track down three Englishmen in Italy believed to know the identities of the papal agents, one of whom is William, and use any means necessary to protect these agents from exposure. In the previous novel, William joined a diplomatic mission of his countrymen to Venice as a spy, posing as the English ambassador’s steward. While Brandreth keeps the intrigue at a high pitch, frequently placing his lead in harm’s way, he leavens the action with a moving subplot concerning William’s lover, poet Isabella Lisarro, whom the future playwright fears has been poisoned at the orders of the pope. Apt quotes from Shakespeare’s plays serve as chapter heads. Brandreth once again integrates vivid period detail into a well-crafted thriller plot. Agent: Ivan Mulcahy, MMB Creative (U.K.). (May)