disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned in exchange for an honest review
April saw the release of the latest instalment in the Jackdaw Series from S W Perry. The Heretic’s Mark is the fourth novel in this crime series based during the Elizabethan period. We meet up again with Nicholas Shelby and his wife Bianca, firstly in London and then as they flee across Europe to the relative safety of her hometown, Padua, in Italy. The year is 1594.
It’s a dangerous time in London in 1594, there are spies everywhere and neighbours are often pitted against each other for their religious beliefs. Queen Elizabeth is constantly under threat from those supporting the Catholic faith and her Protestant supporters are feeding on her insecurity to settle old scores. Dr Roderigo Lopez is the Queen’s physician who has been falsely accused of treason, attempting to poison the Queen and has been sentenced to death. Watching on as the man meets his grisly death is another physician who has fallen from grace. Sir Fulke Vasey has lost his power and influence and knows exactly who he blames for his decline. He has revenge in mind.
Shortly after the execution, Nicholas Shelby is accused of being involved in the plot to kill Queen Elizabeth. It becomes clear that his life is in danger and that even being in the service of Sir Robert Cecil cannot guarantee his safety. It becomes clear that Nicholas and his new wife, Bianca Merton will need to flee the country until his innocence can be confirmed.
Whilst Nicholas and Bianca make their way to Holland as they begin their treacherous journey, Rose and Ned are left in charge of the rebuilding of Bianca’s alehouse and Ned is determined to track down Nicholas’s nemesis. In The Heretic’s Mark, we follow both couples as they try to uncover truths whilst facing extreme dangers.
Nicholas and Bianca come to the aid of a young woman called Hella Maas when they witness the killing of a man inside a church. She’s fervently religious and Bianca doesn’t trust her at all, but unwillingly agrees that she should join the married couple as they travel along the Via Francigena before they head for Padua and Hella to Rome.
Hella is clearly a very disturbed young woman who is hiding a secret past, and it looks as if she wants to steal Nicholas away from his wife. She even tells Bianca that although Bianca will be with child, the baby will be stillborn and she will be left barren. The young wife is terrified that Hella could be telling the truth and how that will affect her relationship with her husband.
There are lots of twists and turns in The Heretic’s Mark as the story moves from London to Padua and back to London. Ned ends up in prison as he tries to uncover the lies and deception there, whilst Nicholas and Bianca are still in danger in Padua. I did find it took a little longer to get into this novel than the previous three in the series. But once gripped, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. It’s well worth sticking with and I, once more, can not wait for the next instalment to be published.
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