The Roots of Betrayal

Written by James Forrester
Review by Kate Braithwaite

In the sequel to his novel Sacred Treason, James Forrester returns to the story of the Elizabethan herald, William Harley, known as Clarenceux. When the document he has been guarding – proof of a marriage pact between Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy which would illegitimize the reigning Queen, Elizabeth I – is stolen, Clarenceux knows that a bloody civil war will be the inevitable consequence of the document being made public.

He is also emotionally entangled in the theft. Although he loves his wife, Clarenceux is drawn to the widow, Rebecca Machyn, the woman he suspects has stolen the document from its hiding place inside a musical instrument hanging on his study wall. With Sir Francis Walsingham, the spymaster, and William Cecil also involved, Clarenceux must track down the mysterious Knights of the Round Table and finds help in unlikely quarters, such as from the roguish pirate Raw Carew.

Forrester is the pen name of accomplished historian Ian Mortimer, and the historical details within this fictional thriller are a pleasure to read. The story is fast-paced and may stretch credulity at points, but The Roots of Betrayal certainly gives an enjoyable window into the religious factions and simmering tension of the period.

Clarenceux’s adventures conclude in the last of Forrester’s trilogy, The Final Sacrament.