disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned for the purpose of review
April saw the publication through Corvus of The Rebel’s Mark by S W Perry, the novel is the fifth in the series of the Jackdaw Mysteries, The Elizabethan crime story is set in the late 1590s, at a time when King Philip of Spain is dying, Queen Elizabeth is ageing and there is much unrest in Ireland.
In The Rebel’s Mark, we meet up again with Dr Nicholas Shelby, his wife Bianca and their young son Bruno. The family have recently returned from their exile in Bianca’s home town of Padua, Italy and Nicholas is still reluctantly in the service of Robert Cecil, Secretary of State, as his spy. The queen is in her twilight years, and the treasury coffers are seriously depleted but her reign is still under threat from Spain and Catholic sympathisers in Ireland. Even though Philip of Spain is on his deathbed suspicions are high that another Spanish invasion attempt is imminent.
Cecil tells Shelby that he must go to Ireland undercover on his behalf, to meet renowned poet Edmund Spenser, gain his confidence and bring back a message from him. Bianca is adamant that she should travel to Ireland with her husband and once in Dublin, they come across Piers Gardener for the first time as he guides them through hostile territory to reach Spenser at his castle in Kilcolman. It soon becomes clear that Spenser is terrified and will trust no one to deliver his message to Cecil but himself. There has also been a Spanish ship wrecked along the Irish coast with all survivors slain on the beach they’d washed up on. But were they all killed by the English or did some survive?
Back in England Spenser dies and Cecil is not convinced that he wasn’t murdered. Before he knows it, Shelby is commanded by the Queen, to return to Ireland with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, commander of the English Army, as the army doctor and also as Cecil’s spy. There is mutual distrust between Essex and Cecil and Shelby is put in a precarious position. Bianca, is once again, insistent that she goes to Ireland with her husband as his assistant and an apothecary.
I won’t give any more of the plot away, but the story of The Rebel’s Mark is beautifully written and the book stands up well as a novel in its own right. But for those of us who have read all of the preceding books, it’s just a joy to read. The characters are developed so well and I was kept up late into the night reading their adventures. I enjoyed learning more about the power struggles in Ireland at this time and it was fascinating to see how the story unfolded.
I can thoroughly recommend not only The Rebel’s Mark, but the series as a whole, and I’m now left eagerly awaiting the next instalment.