The Queen’s Spies

Written by Valerie Wilding
Review by Ann Turnbull

One of the long-running My Story series, this is the fictional diary of Kitty Lumsden from 1583 to 1586, daughter of a diplomat (and perhaps a spy?) in the service of Sir Francis Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth I. Her eldest brother is also in the Queen’s service, and the whole family is loyal to the Queen.

The diary covers the years when Mary Queen of Scots was the focus of Catholic plots to bring England back to the old faith, kill Queen Elizabeth and put Mary Stuart on the throne. Kitty’s kind but unworldly middle brother, Joseph, who is studying law, becomes friendly with a group of students, including Anthony Babington, who turn out to be involved in a plot which leads to Mary’s downfall.

Most of the story is taken up with Kitty’s interest in these events and her attempts to find out what is going on. She is much given to hiding in closets and listening at keyholes, and she squirrels away all this information in her diary. This makes for an entertaining and fast-moving story that also has the merit of making the events of that complicated period of history clear to young readers.

The details of Kitty’s family––their everyday life and small misdemeanours, outings and jealousies––bring the young girl, her time, and her city to life. This is a lively, engrossing way into history, and the short diary entries make it easy to keep reading. I found the story gripping and difficult to put down.