The Queen’s Man

Written by Rory Clements
Review by Ann Northfield

This is the sixth novel in Clements’ John Shakespeare series, although it is a prequel to his first book and is set in 1582. I have been a big fan since the beginning, and this latest addition is no exception.

Fears of Catholic plots swirling around the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots are rife. Shakespeare is given his first major investigation role, which is made more difficult by the enforced companionship of the fanatical Topcliffe. The sense of time and place cannot be faulted and really brings home to today’s more secular and tolerant reader the impossibility of reconciliation between religious viewpoints and the way that religious affiliation was the key political debate and issue of loyalty.

Family problems with John’s brother William are also part of the plot, and the shadowy historical character of Anne Hathaway is given flesh. The plot is tense with last-minute rescues and bloody fights. At the end, bodies litter the ground like the finale of a Shakespearean tragedy. Historical notes added afterwards add veracity to an exciting, well-plotted adventure investigation with twists, turns and believable, well-created characters. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.