The Eyes of the Queen (An Agents of the Crown Novel)

Written by Oliver Clements
Review by Ilysa Magnus

This is the first in a new series in which Dr. John Dee from the 16th century becomes the first 007, head of the newly formed Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Francis Walsingham is determined to protect his queen, Elizabeth I, at virtually any cost. If that means he is responsible for the death of innocents, so be it. If decent folk are sacrificed, what of it? When England—deeply in debt and suffering the loss of half its military—is threatened by Quesada’s Spanish fleet, events begin to percolate. How does Walsingham protect Bess from Queen Mary of Scotland who is being held captive by her? How to defend England from an invasion from Catholic Spain, avoiding another Inquisition as the Age of Enlightenment explodes? How to ensure that no one other than an English explorer finds the passage to the riches of Cathay?

The brilliant John Dee, the “eyes” of Bess, as she calls him, appears to be Walsingham’s next sacrificial lamb. But Dee is far more resourceful, intuitive, and capable than Walsingham believes. And Dee’s love of Bess is certainly an incentive for success.

There is an engaging and fascinating plot line, and the characters are beautifully drawn. I hadn’t previously known how our modern intelligence services began, and Dee is a star. That said, I might well have considered this a 5-star debut had it not been for ever-shifting points of view, speedy transitions from character to character, action moving quickly from one scene to another without reason. To me, the book was inconsistent and jerky in its presentation, unfortunate because the subject and the characters capture the imagination.