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by Rory Clements
John Murray, April 2012
471 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 1848544294

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Good news for John Shakespeare fans - the Elizabethan Bond is back for his fourth and perhaps most compelling adventure. With the might of Catholic Spain threatening a second armada to invade England, spymaster Robert Cecil sends his top agent, together with his faithful sidekick, Boltfoot Cooper, to Lancashire to safeguard England's secret weapon and its inventor, the part-genius, part-mountebank scientist-mathematician-magician, Dr John Dee.

What seems a simple mission goes badly wrong. A disguised Catholic priest is brutally murdered before Shakespeare's eyes; Dee's host, the Earl of Derby, a closet Catholic who is in line to the throne, is apparently poisoned. Throw in a beautiful and sensuous Bohemian aristocrat of dubious loyalty, season with villains, including a pair of almost Tarantino-like enforcers, and add the brooding presence of witchfinder Richard Topcliffe, Shakespeare's nemesis, who tries to strike at John through his adopted son, and almost anything can happen.

TRAITOR movies at a gripping pace from Elizabeth's court to the still Catholic-dominated north to the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream written by John's rather better known brother William. The action then romps through a camp of vagabonds in Wiltshire, to a savage denouement at the Spanish-held fort of el Leon on the coast of Brittany. No one better understands the divided loyalties and the twisted and complicated politics that dominated the reign of the Virgin Queen when the future of England was under threat from both without and within better than Clements and no one brings this stew of plot and counter-plot to life half as well.

This condensation of almost thirteen years of history moves at a furious pace to provide a rumbustious read mixing fact with plenty of adventure, sex and violence with enough twists to confuse anyone but the most determined sleuth. Clements provides one final sting in the tail as Shakespeare discovers just how far his masters are prepared to go to preserve Elizabeth's throne and England's independence. The is very definitely another hit for award-winning author Rory Clements.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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