It is the year 1593, and England is a powder-keg of rumour and fear. Plague threatens London, famine is rife and the aged queen (known to her enemies as the basilisk) is surrounded by scheming courtiers. As the novel opens, London’s Dutch community is threatened by bomb attacks from those jealous of the Dutch immigrant population, and Christopher Marlowe is mysteriously murdered in Deptford. Rory Clements’ investigator, John Shakespeare, older brother to Will, steps in to become entangled in a challenging investigation, one which has a seismic effect on his personal life. He enters the opulent chambers of Black Luce, the torture chambers of priest hunter Richard Topcliffe, the elegant offices of his employer, Robert Cecil, country houses, a horse race, the torrid streets of London and a terrifying desolate island situated in the mouth of the Thames. These are the physical settings for Clements’ Elizabethan thriller.
Prince is action packed, and its pages are filled with intricate layers of deception. The late Elizabethan world is brilliantly portrayed with exciting narrative twists. As one character says, ‘Who is what they seem in this world we inhabit, John?’ Historical detail is expertly integrated into sophisticated plot strands to create a seamless whole, inclusive of the investigation into the attacks on the Dutch community, Marlowe’s death, Spanish plots, witchcraft and James I, and a thrilling ship explosion on the Thames. John Shakespeare is a very sympathetic hero. Clements’ subsidiary characters are excellently portrayed, reaching beyond the page to haunt the reader. As for the prince of the title, reader, read on and all will be revealed. Importantly, this novel is extremely intelligent and exceptionally well written. I could not put it down until I reached its final startling denouements. Prince is the third in a series involving John Shakespeare by this a Silver Dagger award-winning writer.