The Angel’s Mark

Written by S. W. Perry
Review by jay Dixon

When I started this book it had, to my mind, multiple strikes against it: it was long, it was written in the present tense, had multiple points of view, occasionally used modern language, and the author sometimes addresses the reader: ‘after one of Vasey’s lectures it was the habit of the young physicians to celebrate their survival by getting fabulously drunk.’

Yet, I enjoyed it. It has good historical detail, is well-plotted, has believable characters, and Perry has created a convincing Elizabethan world. The story takes place over six months, from August 1590 to February 1591, and opens with the hero, Nicholas Shelby, communicating through a bedroom wall, with his wife, who is pregnant and in seclusion. Earlier in the day he has seen the body of a young crippled boy and noticed an odd mark on his ankle.

From that first oddity we are led through Nicholas’s personal tragedy to his meeting with Bianca, a tavern keeper in Southwark, and the discovery of more bodies with a similar mark. Nicholas tries in vain to get the authorities to investigate what he believes are serial murders, until he catches the eye of Robert Cecil, who insists he goes to stay with John Lumley at Nonsuch Palace and investigate him for Catholicism.

Full of well-drawn fictional and historical characters, I found this a captivating read. There is a hint that it is the first in a series, in which case I look forward to the next one.