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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Shardlake yet.
I found the opening of this novel quite irritating, relying as it did on reporting historical background, rather than revealing it gradually. However, once the plot took off, this was less noticeable and the book became genuinely interesting. I, too, wondered why Rory Clements made the central protaganist the brother of the famous Shakespeare; there appears to be no...
Published on 6 July 2011 by J. Shaw

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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good if not outstanding debut
First things first, the publishers would have you believe that this is on a par with the Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom - well, put simply, it isn't. Having said that, once you put aside the comparisons and read it without prejudice then you will probably enjoy it. The setting in turbulent times, provides plenty of opportunity for period detail and it is clear that...
Published on 14 Mar 2010 by Andy Edwards


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Shardlake yet., 6 July 2011
By 
J. Shaw (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Martyr (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
I found the opening of this novel quite irritating, relying as it did on reporting historical background, rather than revealing it gradually. However, once the plot took off, this was less noticeable and the book became genuinely interesting. I, too, wondered why Rory Clements made the central protaganist the brother of the famous Shakespeare; there appears to be no reason for the link, nor for the implied connection with Andrew Marvell. Also, the ending felt very contrived and strangely flat, which was a pity because the story had really gripped me for the last two hundred pages. I will definitely read the next one - well, I've just bought it - because it looks as though these novels could develop into something really good. Not quite up to CJ Samson's level yet though.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good debut, 27 Feb 2012
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Martyr (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
An assassin, sent by the Spanish, is on the streets of London, his target: Sir Francis Drake. The year is 1587, Queen Elizabeth contemplates whether or not to execute Mary Queen of Scots, and her men stalk the streets hunting Roman Catholic priests. A brutal murder (and it is quite horrific - be warned) leads Secretary Walsingham's intelligencer, John Shakespeare, into a battle against time to both stop the assassin and solve the crime.

I drew the immediate comparison with C J Sansom's Shardlake novels even before I started reading this. It's got a suitably convoluted plot, involves real people from history and uses real events as a backdrop. It's quite gruesome, but very exciting, quite amusing in places, and has lots of twists and turns. I particularly liked that it didn't end up the way I thought it was going to, which was a nice surprise. I also liked that it was written in third person. Sansom uses the first person and, as a result, he has had to come up with more and more, to be frank, ludicrous ways to get Shardlake into the situations he needs to in order to progress the story (Heartstone was particularly guilty of this). Clements, on the other hand, switches between characters, settings and events as the story requires, and it makes it fast-paced and full of suspense without tipping the balance and taking you out of the experience. In fact, in his hands, 16th century London is a scary place indeed.

For a debut novel this is top stuff. I'll definitely be checking out more of John Shakespeare's adventures.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good if not outstanding debut, 14 Mar 2010
By 
Andy Edwards "staxasoul" (Essex UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Martyr (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
First things first, the publishers would have you believe that this is on a par with the Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom - well, put simply, it isn't. Having said that, once you put aside the comparisons and read it without prejudice then you will probably enjoy it. The setting in turbulent times, provides plenty of opportunity for period detail and it is clear that Clements has brough to bear all his knowledge as a historian. The result is a kind of medieval Day of the Jackal meets Jack the Ripper via Name of the Rose.

The plot and sense of time and place are excellent, and Clements delights in the gruesome, as Shakespeare pursues his serial killer/assasin, all the time trying to stay one step ahead of his rival, Richard Topville. And therein lies a problem, why create a brother for William Shakespeare, when everything else was so historically accurate? Was it merely to facilitate one unlikely setpiece late in the book, because I could see no real need for it. There are a couple of other out of place elements, which I won't specify as to do so would spoil the atory if you want to read it, but suffice to say that they appear out of place for the 16th Century.

I also felt that the ending of the book left much to be desired - there seemed to be a few false starts, as if the author wanted to bring things to a climax, but the publisher neede more, so he strung things out for 50 or so more pages. The result was several loose ends, obviously to allow for a sequel or two, and a highly manufactured resolution to Shakespeare's domestic arrangements and his love life, the latter, an aspect of his character which never seemed quite convincing.

So if this is the start of a series, it is one which will probably prosper, but the writing needs to be sharper, the plot a little pacier and the characters given more depth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed all the John Shakespeare (Rory Clements) novels, 13 Mar 2014
By 
Keith Watson "Keith" (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am a bit of an addict for historical novels with a sinister plot, someone investigating it and putting clues together to find out what is happening. This is a bit like MI5/MI6 in Elizabethan times with "intelligencers" tasked with decoding messages, looking for enemies of the estate with some "back stories" about the members of the family thrown in to add some other dimensions to the stories. I enjoyed all of the John Shakespeare series and, in general found I wanted to keep reading them to the end. I like these as well as the Shardlake series (C.J. Sansom - Henry VIII timeframe) and the Giordani Series (S.J. Parris - Elizabeth I again). I learnt a lot about life in those times and I found it a far easier read than John Forrester books which I found hard going and didn't finish. I look forward to reading the next installments of all three of these authors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping Elizabethan mystery, 6 Jan 2014
The year is 1587 in England, Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne. A plot to kill Sir Francis Drake has been uncovered and a high born young woman is discovered dead - her body horribly mutilated. Protestant - Catholic tensions are at an all time high with Queen Elizabeth attempting to crush and Catholics in the country attempting to practise their faith.
John Shakespeare is tasked with not only finding the killer of Lady Blanche Howard but also to ensure that Sir Francis Drake stays alive to defeat the threat of a Spanish Invasion.
This is the first book in a series of books featuring John Shakespeare and the first novel by Rory Clements that I had read.
I found that the story gripped me from start to finish with all its twists, turns, family secrets and intrigue. The novel perfectly evokes all the putrid smells and sights of Elizabethan England whilst perfectly conveying the sense of fear and threat that both the Catholics and Protestants must have felt during that period. A word of warning though, because (due to it excellent descriptions) some of the sights and descriptions of the horrific torture that many suffered during that period this book is perhaps not for the faint hearted.
I really enjoyed this 1st John Shakespeare story and will definitely be reading the other books in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NO C J SANSOM, 7 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Martyr (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
How anyone can compare this novel and its companions to CJ Sansoms Shardlake series well beggars belief. It is like comparing Barbara Cartland to Hilary Mantel. It is poorly written too many characters who add nothing to the story and only confuse the reader, The hero isn't very bright and seems to solve his case by accident not by any of his investigations. I shan't be following this series. I shall read SJ Parris' until Sansom gives us another tome
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 1 Jun 2013
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It was a great read and compelling to learn what was comming next. So it is a wonder why I did not give it five stars I realy wanted to give four and a half but that was not possible. The historic detail is very good and the pace of the action is good. I think I have hit the nail on the head there, it is an action story rather than a thinking, pondering story such as Sansom writes, perhaps that is where the other half point is. I have already bought the sequel so that speaks for its self.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Improved towards the end, 10 April 2013
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I bought this on the basis of the product review that likened Rory Clements 'Shakespeare' novels to those of C J Sansom's 'Shardlake'. Unfortunately it did not live up to expectations. Set in the Elizabethan period, (John Shakespeare being the elder brother of William) the plot was good, but lacking in its presentation. I felt Mr Clements was trying too hard to speak down to the reader and at the same time educate.
Like Sansom's Shardlake and Richard Rich, you are left on a 'hook' with the animosity between Shakespeare and ... (oh dear I've forgotten the name) set to continue presumably throughout the series.
If you like steamier books, then there is a brief, (I feel unneccessary), descriptive passage - fortunately just the one. It adds nothing to the story.
To be truthful, i was tempted to put it into my Kindle's 'not finished' collection, but persevered - and it did improve. Shall I purchase another? I am uncertain - there are so many far better books out there.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent start!!, 28 July 2009
By 
Jeff "roadrunner" (uk) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book and recommend it strongly. If you've tried CJ Sansum then this novel, set about 50 years later, will not disappoint. It's well-written, full of period and yes, at times reflects the violence prevalent in the 1580s not least that meted out by government agencies, especially the notorious Richard Topcliffe. The atmosphere of uncertainty everywhere is strong, not least the hounding of Catholics in the wake of Mary Queen of Scots. There are all sorts of strands to the plot but I found at all times that the book was easy to read. John Shakespeare makes for an interesting main character and is likeable in his quirky way. I wasn't sure at first if I could take him seriously, given his name and that he'd 'recently arrived in London from the Midlands'. It's fairly well known that his somewhat better-known younger brother had no elder brother called John, so I'd have liked some sort of explanation from Clements at the end. Why choose this rather eye-catching surname at all?
Never mind, the book is a good one and I hope it does become [as publishers tell us] first in a series, but then if it doesn't sell, we all know that's not likely to happen which would be a shame. Deserves wide readership!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SHARDLAKE VS SHAKESPEARE? NO CONTEST, 24 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Martyr (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
Awaiting the next Shardlake I thought this would be a good way to fill in the time. Which it was to some extent. Alas the plot losses it way every now and then and if one thought about it too deeply - it would not make sense. For example, a fervent Catholic willing to die for their fate but then is willing to drops their beliefs (or should that be briefs!) oh so easily. There are lots of other examples but that would give away the story. One part of the ending is still a mystery to me and I am not even sure why it was in the book. Why, what and how were the events in the Westminster home relevant or even included at the end?

However, I did want to find out more about all the characters, spot the red herrings and whilst I did have to ignore the clumsy coincidences it was a good time filler. Come back soon Shardlake though.
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Martyr (John Shakespeare)
Martyr (John Shakespeare) by Rory Clements (Paperback - 21 Jan 2010)
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