The Saracen’s Mark (The Jackdaw Mysteries)

Written by S. W. Perry
Review by jay Dixon

Despite its length (I don’t like books over 400 pages) I enjoyed this book, the third in Perry’s Mark series and to my mind the best yet. Set in 1593, when the plague struck England, it takes place in London and Marrakech. Nicholas is sent undercover by Robert Cecil to Marrakech on the trail of a missing informer. Meanwhile Bianca is discovering things in London which are relevant to the operation. To say more would give away the plot, but a thing I like about this series is that Bianca is an equal partner with Nicholas – if not at the characters’ behest then in the way the story works out.

This novel is less convoluted than the previous two, making an easier read. There are mainly just two points of view – Nicholas’ and Bianca’s – so when a chapter ends on a cliffhanger there is no long wait before it is picked up again. It is well-plotted, with good foreshadowing, so that when something is mentioned in a description it is no surprise when it becomes relevant later. Questions raised are answered, some quickly, the larger ones not till the end – when there is a neat twist.

Perry has the knack of painting a word picture so that the reader can see the place – and time – he is describing. He often includes historical people: Cecil, Marlowe, Dr Lopez (physician to Elizabeth I), Arnoult de Lisle, Muhammed al-Annuri, all of whom, as far as I can tell, are true to their character.

This story has a satisfying ending, and the characters remained with me after I had finished. I look forward to the next in the series, though to get the best out of it you will need to have read the previous two, to enjoy the developing relationship between Nicholas and Bianca.