Mary Tudor is on the throne and the royal court is more dangerous than ever. The Spanish ambassador Simon Renard influences Mary, steering her towards a marriage with his master King Philip of Spain which would return England to Catholicism. The Dudleys are in the Tower, along with their lamb, Lady Jane Grey, whom they led to the slaughter by installing her on the throne on the death of Edward VI. There is no one, though, that Mary regards with more suspicion than her younger sister the Princess Elizabeth. Should there be any plot at all against Mary and her betrothal, Mary has no doubt that it would have Elizabeth at its head. This suspicion alone is enough to throw Elizabeth’s world upside down and place her on the edge of a precipice. She has only one hope. Elizabeth’s loyal servant Brendan Prescott, obscured under the name of Daniel Beecham, is hired by William Cecil to act as a spy in Mary’s court, identifying the schemers that speak poison into Mary’s ear and uncovering the plots that threaten Elizabeth. Elizabeth herself is trapped at court, hanging on by a thread to Mary’s patience. The Tower feels close.
What follows is a whirl of intrigue and secrets, set among the luxurious silks, tapestries and feasts of court as well as the crowded, dangerous stews of London. Whether the dark streets and brothels of London are any more perilous than the Queen’s rooms at court is a moot point. Prescott finds himself up to the neck in both. With him is his young squire Peregrine and the two of them have their work cut out to manoeuvre through the elaborate games of those who surround the Queen and her sister. It’s a safe bet that Prescott is not alone in hiding under an assumed name.
The Tudor Conspiracy is the second novel in the Elizabeth’s Spymaster series featuring Prescott but if you, like me, have yet to read the first, then this won’t affect your enjoyment at all. There are enough clues to fill in any gaps while events that unfold here will have an enormous impact on Prescott’s future. There is a feeling throughout that this is the time that counts and everything focuses very much on events at hand. It most definitely stands strong as a standalone novel.
The Tudor Conspiracy is an absolutely marvellous read. Intrigue, adventure, love and lies, it has the lot, all set against the most wonderfully realised background of the court of Mary Tudor and the cutthroat streets of Tudor London. Both real and fictional characters are developed beautifully and interact realistically. Prescott’s character is fascinating, made more so as we watch his interaction with Peregrine as well as the ladies of the court. I particularly enjoyed his empathy with animals and those less fortunate than himself, including Lady Jane Grey. There are little moments that reveal a great deal about our hero as well as the times in which he’s placed. Among the moments of high excitement and danger there are others that are deeply emotional. The Tudor Conspiracy is not only extremely well written, it has a heart to go with it and I loved it.
This novel is a historical mystery but it succeeds so well because of its historical authenticity and spirit. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because, although this is the first novel I’ve read by Christopher Gortner, I have read a novel by C.W. Gortner, The Queen’s Vow, which was a superb piece of historical fiction. The Tudor Conspiracy is every bit as good and I read it in just one very happy sitting.
I am chuffed to be a part of the UK Blog Tour for The Tudor Conspiracy. It begins here on 16 January.
The Queen’s Vow (as C.W. Gortner)