cover image All the Queen’s Spies

All the Queen’s Spies

Oliver Clements. Atria, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-9821-9746-9

Set in 1583, Clements’s strong third Agents of the Crown thriller featuring real-life mathematician, occultist, and alchemist John Dee (after 2021’s The Queen’s Men) opens with an arresting sentence: “When John Dee thinks about it later, when he is crouched covered in blood in the stern of a fluyt and watching the coast of Kent disappear forever into the sea mist, he wonders again why he had ever supposed, even for a solitary instant, that this could or would have ever ended otherwise.” Flashbacks reveal the mission that put Dee in this situation. Spymaster Francis Walsingham wants Dee to befriend Count Olbrecht Łaski, a confidante of Rudolf, the Holy Roman Emperor, who’s an admirer of Dee’s. That relationship is hoped to lead to the count serving as Walsingham’s eyes and ears in the emperor’s court, as England remains under threat from an ally of the Holy Roman Empire. Dee’s efforts take him to Prague and place his life in peril. Clements’s version of a vulnerable Dee contrasts nicely with fictional heroes of this period, and he maintains a high level of tension throughout. S.J. Parris fans will find a lot to like. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, Defiore & Co. (Mar.)