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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More twists and turns than a corkscrew
Traitor is my first encounter with John Shakespeare, Elizabethan intelligencer, and I enjoyed the meeting very much. So much in fact that I now want to read the first three books in the series. The basis of the story is that the Elizabethan navy has a secret weapon ie a perspective glass (telescope) which the Spanish will do anything to steal. A second Armada is...
Published on 1 Mar. 2012 by Mrs. V. Bradley

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read - shame about the plot lines!
This is a book that is very easy and quick to read. That is probably its strength and weakness - it is a great book, provided that you don't stop to think about it.

Many reviewers have commented on the weakness of the Andrew Woode angle in Act !. I can only agree with this - and it is so painfully obvious what has happened and who is the root cause. (This is...
Published on 29 Nov. 2012 by Gruber


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More twists and turns than a corkscrew, 1 Mar. 2012
By 
Mrs. V. Bradley "bookaholic" (Kidderminster, Worcs., England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
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Traitor is my first encounter with John Shakespeare, Elizabethan intelligencer, and I enjoyed the meeting very much. So much in fact that I now want to read the first three books in the series. The basis of the story is that the Elizabethan navy has a secret weapon ie a perspective glass (telescope) which the Spanish will do anything to steal. A second Armada is threatened and John Shakespeare is charged with keeping Dr John Dee and William Ivory safe; these two men know the secrets of the perspective glass and William Ivory is the operative. William Ivory is the carrier of the glass which is secreted somewhere about his person and Dr Dee the inventor. So far, so good. Shakespeare is sent north with the two men to find a safe haven at the home of the Earl of Derby. However the Earl of Derby is grievously ill with suspected poisoning and likely to die at any time but nobody knows why. The story then develops apace with more intrigue and treachery, including John's adopted son Andrew, a young boy of 13 studying at Oxford University, being falsely accused of murder and having to flee for his life. Wise women, a beautiful lady called Eliska, men in high office, these together with vagabonds, cutthroats, thieves and other miscreants appear as the story develops further. But who is the Traitor of the title? This is not revealed until almost the end of the story and comes as a great surprise. I will not divulge any more of the plot for fear of spoiling it for future readers. Suffice to say that this historical novel has a factual base and is a cracking good read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Has Clements hit his stride at last?, 17 July 2012
By 
Bookwoman - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
I haven't been very kind to Rory Clements in the past. Mostly because I'm a big fan of historical novels, and historical murder mysteries in particular, and in the inevitable comparison with CJ Sansom's superb Tudor thrillers (it's not just me, even Clements' own publishers and publicists like to point out the similarities) his books always come up short.
But I really enjoyed this one. It's the fourth in the series and it follows the usual formula: reluctant government agent John Shakespeare (brother of the more famous Will) is sent on a mission which involves solving a murder while unravelling a plot that threatens to overturn the Tudor throne. This time there are spies and assassins, renegade soldiers and vagabond bands, a secret weapon to protect, a beautiful double agent to seduce, and a frantic chase across war-torn northern France which ends in a bloody siege. Sometimes the reason for the whole escapade gets a bit lost in the sub-plots (I never did understand why just one man had to keep hold of the spyglass) but on the whole it's an excellent page-turner.
Usually I find Clements' characters far too sketchy, and their relationships and dialogue far too unconvincing, to really care about what happens to them - John Shakespeare is certainly no match for Sansom's all-too-human Shardlake. But either he's getting better, or this is such an exciting and fast-moving plot that it didn't bother me as much. For once, the use of real historical characters like brother Will and Dr John Dee seemed integral to the plot and not just a clumsy add-on to bring a touch of authenticity to the tale. And he's also introduced two credible and likeable new characters - Shakespeare's foster son Andrew, and his ragamuffin friend Ursula - who I hope will feature in future books.
It's almost as if Clements has given up trying to match CJ Sansom for character development, analysis and angst - always a losing battle - and decided to concentrate on producing plot-led thrillers, which I always suspected he'd do better.
I nearly gave up on this series after Prince (John Shakespeare 3), but I'm glad I didn't. I'm even looking forward to the next one now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good novel from Rory Clements, 3 Nov. 2012
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
British author Rory Clements newest novel, "Traitor", is the fourth in his John Shakespeare series. John is the older brother of Will, who makes appearances in the books, but the stories concentrate on John. He is an "intelligencer" for Queen Elizabeth's adviser, Sir Robert Cecil. The job of "intelligencer" seems to be a combination of aide/spy/flunky/and fixer. And what a large amount of "fixing" John Shakespeare has to do in "Traitor"!

"Traitor" is set in 1593, late in the reign of Elizabeth I. On-going troubles with Spain are coming to a head as a second Armada is rumored to be on the way to the British coastline. Also simmering are the problems between English Protestants and English Catholics. Robert Cecil has charged John Shakespeare with protecting the inventors of a wonderful new spyglass, trying to prevent the glass from falling into the hands of Spanish spies. Shakespeare is also investigating the disappearance of his adopted son, Andrew Woode, from his Oxford college. And there's a mysterious death of one of Elizabeth's supporters, as well as a group of vagabonds, who show up quite often. In fact, there are so many plot lines that the reader is sometimes hard-pressed to remember which character goes with which plot. That's characteristic of Rory Clements' previous novels, but especially so in "Traitor". Added to the plot lines is more military action in this novel than I remember in his previous books. But the military scenes are well-written and Clements thoughtfully includes three maps in the front of the book to help the reader keep up with the action.

I'm giving "Traitor" four stars instead of five because of the complexity of the plot. That's not normally a problem for me as a reader of historical fiction, however in this case I feel that Rory Clements is trying to cram five pounds of stuff into a three pound bag. But it is still an excellent read, particularly for Rory Clements fans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story from the Elizabethan era, 29 May 2012
By 
I. H. C. Mellor "mihcm" (Milton Keynes) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
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John Shakespeare (brother of William) is an intelligence officer, would probably now be part off MI5. Set in the times when religion was something you could get lynched for there are several issues running in parallel in this book. Starting with the possible poisoning of Elizabeth 1's cousin and the spanish requirement to steal a new invention, the telescope, this story interweaves around telling the story of John Shakespeare and his investigations into the poisoning and leading him between the North of England, London, Oxford and France, culminating in a lot of traitorous activity in the war against the spanish in France. A very well told story leading to a tantalising ending. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Traitor, 2 Feb. 2013
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Traitor (John Shakespeare) (Paperback)
This is the fourth of Clements's 'John Shakespeare' novels. I've really enjoyed the previous three, which have been fast-paced, gripping conspiracy thrillers set in Elizabethan England. The publishers seem to love comparing these books to those of C J Sansom, plastering quotes such as "Does for Elizabeth's reign what C J Sansom does for Henry VIII's" across the covers. I don't think that Clements is as good a writer as Sansom, but his books are faster-paced, more action-packed, and don't involve a main character who spends most of the time feeling sorry for himself. Clements's style is efficient, almost brusque. He doesn't mince words, or spend pages telling you a character's innermost thoughts. This is a plus and a minus. It means the characters are sketched quickly, and then you are left to build a more detailed image of them from their words and actions. Some readers don't like this sort of thing, but it works well, imo. He manages to convey atmosphere with brutal economy. It also means that, to me, his stories have felt more streamlined, more focused, more exciting.

Up until now, this series has stuck to conpiracy thrillers, and there is much of that in Traitor. But this is the longest book in the series so far, and the reason for this seems to be that Clements wants to change things up. In order to do this he has expanded the landscape for this story, brought in a host of new characters, and - most tellingly - thrown a bewildering amount of plots and sub-plots into the mix. As a result, the story leaps around like a rabbit on a spring, and barely pauses for breath. When I say it's fast-paced, it's almost Usain Bolt. And, rather than sticking to the conpiracy elements of the tale, it also veers into Bernard Cornwell war story territory. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I just wasn't expecting it (which, again, isn't necessarily a bad thing). But part of me would like Clements to stick to being Clements.

If that makes it sound like I didn't like it, nothing could be further from the truth. Shakespeare is a tough-talking, ruthless spy, and Boltfoot a hard-bitten, loyal companion. They spend little time together in this novel, and you can almost sense that each feels vulnerable without the other. Of the new characters, Ursula is a pigging joy (her words) - a member of a group of vagabonds who leaps off the page. I think Clements must've had a lot of fun writing her. I am disappointed that the wonderfully evil Richard Topcliffe - the scenery-chewing villain of previous stories - barely appears here. The battle scenes are exciting, the red herrings many, and - to Clements' credit - he somehow manages to juggle them all and bring them together in a surprisingly downbeat conclusion. I don't think it's his best book and, for a while, I was worried that it was lurching far too close to Sansom's disappointingly silly Heartstone in the situations it was throwing at its characters (you certainly have to suspend your disbelief a lot more than in the previous books), but he just about manages to keep his head above water. I hope - for the next book, The Heretics - he scales it back a bit but, for now, this is a huge amount of fun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Through the optical glass - darkly!, 8 July 2012
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
The latest outing for John Shakespeare centres around the guardianship of an 'optical glass' which will be our 'secret weapon' now that another 'Armada' involving Spain and France is iminent. Shakespeare is send to the County of Lancashire to bring back the Queen's fortune teller and alchemist - Dr Dee along with his protege for it is felt that the knowlege Dr Dee has regarding the spy glass, he could use for monetary gain now that he is penniless! On arrival in Lancashire at the home of Lord Derby skulduggery is afoot with the possibility of him being poisioned and the book then gains pace and we come into contact once again with Boltfoot Coooper whose supreme task to aprehend the criminal who is trying to steal the spy glass.
Running alongside this storyline we are introuduced once again to Shakespeare's adoptive son Andrew Woode, who is currently studying at Oxford and who is (falsely) accused of a tresonable act of defacing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with red paint. He absconds from Oxford and on his travels meets up with Reaphook and Ursula Dancer and vagabonds - an Elizabethan style of the Dickensian Bill Sykes/Nancy and the Artful Dodger!
Once again Rory Clements has delivered an excellent fast paced Elizabethan mystery together with Elizabethan theatrical entertainment provided by his brother Will and an Elizabethan romp style of romance with the 'mysterious woman' in the form of Lady Eliska.

If you love historical fiction Rory Clements once again has ticked all the right boxes - read and enjoy!.
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4.0 out of 5 stars John Shakespeare "rides" again..., 26 Mar. 2012
By 
Uncle Barbar (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Programme (What's this?)
I am a big fan of this genre - reading the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom, the S.J. Parris books and also those by Clements. There is a large amount of overlap between these books - particularly those of Parris and Clements.

Having already read two of Clement's books on John Shakespeare and having thoroughly enjoyed both, I was really looking forward to making my way through this one. So, did it deliver?

Firstly I'd say that I did not enjoy it as much as his first two. I found one of the sub-plots - that of his stepson Andrew - just distracted one away from the main action and I didn't really feel it added anything to the overall story (it slowed down the action at times). There were enough threads going on at the time without this added distraction.

The main threads - of Shakespeare and the Earl of Derby/the love interest/Dr.Dee and that of Boltfoot Cooper and the defence of Mr Ivory and the perspective glass was interesting and gathered pace to its denouement in Brittany. I thoroughly enjoyed these two aspects of the book. I am unsure whether the love interest really added much to the plot though - particularly the final act in this relationship (without giving anything away).

So, all in all, a great read but, due to the reasons above, worthy of 4 stars and not quite up to his usual (very high) standard.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read - shame about the plot lines!, 29 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
This is a book that is very easy and quick to read. That is probably its strength and weakness - it is a great book, provided that you don't stop to think about it.

Many reviewers have commented on the weakness of the Andrew Woode angle in Act !. I can only agree with this - and it is so painfully obvious what has happened and who is the root cause. (This is not the only plot line to be telegraphed).

I mentioned, in my review of Prince, that the evil of Topcliffe is overworked and, frankly, tremendously boring. This follows the same path and falls in to the same trap. It is time to move on, Rory (and I suspect that he is thinking of doing so)!

There are a lot of plot lines in this: the death/murder of an earl; a Jesuit conspiracy (or was it); a potential double agent; the war in Brittany; an act of treasonous sabotage; and the main storyline concerning the perspective glass. (I am totally ignoring the vagabond storyline - that is just tedious taradiddle!). Too many things - and the ending becomes a little too neat in an effort to tie them all off.

One thing also sticks in the craw. Sailors would not be at all happy to have a woman on board, especially not if they were going in to battle in a foreign sea. A woman on board ship was considered to be very unlucky, and the Elizabethans were nothing if not superstitious. Eliska sailing with Frobisher fits the story nicely, but it really is a non-starter of an idea.

As a final point, this was a 471 page hardback. If the print had not been so large (10 words to the line as a maximum!!!) it would be no bigger than 380-400 pages. With better editing, I suspect that this is a 250 page novel - the result you see is just bedecked in more gossamer finery than Titania herself.

If you want a quick read which won't tax you, this will do. (Good for the beach or the Tube, I would say). If you want something deeper, this is not for you. For a better crafted book, I would go for the Sansom Shardlake series and the Mantell Cromwell books (for more serious reads) or why not try the Patricia Finney Ames and Becket series (for a well crafted and witty read).

I would probably try the next Rory Clements novel. They have not been anywhere near as bad as (Ian) James Forrester (Mortimer)'s incredible (as in "unbelievable") Clarenceux novels.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clements does it again!, 1 Mar. 2012
By 
Jeff "roadrunner" (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traitor (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Clements improves with each one of his Tudor thrillers involving intelligence agent John Shakespeare. They're well-researched, very readable and exciting with credible characters. Perhaps important to read them in order, to establish certain relationships. For example, Will [the man himself!!] appears in them all and although his elder brother John is total fiction, I must say I like the idea. In this novel we meet him at one of the first productions of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at the home of Lord Derby, one of his patrons, who also figures largely in the plot of the novel - i.e. who wants to kill him? The story is a little slow to get going perhaps, with nothing in the first 200 pages other than establishing that Lancashire was a hotbed of Catholicism. Soon changes though as things get personal between John Shakespeare and the femme fatale and the story of Andrew, his adopted son. Builds to great excitement in Brittany [I'm not giving anything away-there's a map at the front!]. I did find the 'explanation' at the end a bit of a let-down and the importance of the spying-glass hugely overblown but I enjoyed it on the whole very much. How does Clements compare with CJ Sansom? Better. And with SJ Parris? Much better. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story, 28 Dec. 2013
Reading other reviews that compare the Shakespeare books unfavourably with the Shardlake series from C J Sansom, I have to say the reverse having read just this book and Revenger from Clements, for they both were unputdownable!
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Traitor (John Shakespeare)
Traitor (John Shakespeare) by Rory Clements (Paperback - 31 Jan. 2013)
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