These days when somebody discusses “altered history” my first thought it is election year campaign related. Thankfully, in this case, that is not true. Before this review, I had never heard of this series. This one came out in hardback in 2011 (there is an e-book version) and apparently is followed by five more books according to Amazon. Sounds really interesting. Kaye George has gone and done it to me again. Now I have to practice self-control and not add to my tbr pile…
Revenger by Rory Clements
This is a tale of altered history, using John Shakespeare, the brother of Williams, as the sleuth. William even makes a brief appearance and plays a role. The first in this series was Martyr and introduced Shakespeare as an "intelligencer" for Her Majesty, the Queen of England, Elizabeth I.
As the second book opens, John has retired from a palace and political intrigue to serve as headmaster of the Margaret Woode School for Poor Boys. His first main problem is an instructor who is too harsh with the students, but whom he is stuck with. The instructor was foisted upon him by the Protestant Bishop as an agent to keep track that no Roman Catholic leanings creep into the curriculum. His second worry is the Roman Catholic faith of his beloved wife, Catherine. She refuses to keep it hidden, a dangerous position in England at this time. John worries for his wife and his young daughter.
Queen Elizabeth, to whom John is loyal, has enemies. England has defeated the Spanish Armada, but Spain is regrouping and King Philip remains a threat. There may also be a plot to arrange a marriage between Lady Arabella Stuart, generally acknowledged to be next in line to the English throne, to Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. This would be a powerful alliance and could topple the queen.
Some rough characters convince John to get back into the intrigue game, some working for Sir Robert Cecil, some for Essex. John isn't quite sure who is on the side of the queen and who is against her. When John's wife quits speaking to him after she narrowly misses a trip to the Tower with the Catholic priest she follows, his troubles are compounded. Somehow, his family is entangled in a plot to overthrow his monarch and he must use his wits to keep this from happening.
The book is quite long for a mystery, 448 pages, but there's excitement and conspiracy on almost every page to keep the reader's interest.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Choke, for Suspense Magazine