cover image The Saracen’s Mark

The Saracen’s Mark

S.W. Perry. Atlantic (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-78649-899-1

It’s 1593 in Perry’s superior third mystery featuring London physician Nicholas Shelby (after 2019’s The Serpent’s Mark), and Sir Robert Cecil, of Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council, asks Shelby to look into the fate of his spy, trader Adolfo Sykes, in Morocco. Until suddenly going silent, Sykes was sending Cecil regular reports about Spanish machinations in that country, a vital source of the saltpeter England needs for its cannons. Shelby demurs until Cecil threatens the livelihood of apothecary Bianca Merton, Shelby’s love-interest, if the medico doesn’t accept the assignment. The reader already knows that Sykes has been killed, but Perry maintains suspense about the motive by linking the killer’s m.o. with that used by someone who struck in London at one of Shelby’s friends. The intrigue occurs against the looming threat of the plague, which casts a pall on the survival of those Shelby leaves behind in England. Perry’s diligent research makes the period detail convincing. Fans of S.J. Parris and C.J. Sansom will be pleased. Agent: Jane Judd, Jane C. Judd Literary (U.K.). (May)