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VINE VOICEon 1 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 17 July 2012
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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on 29 November 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 19 September 2015
This is another well written and absorbing read in the John Shakespeare series , and it carries on the story of an intelligencer (or secret agent ) in the time of Queen Elizabeth the first .This is the fourth novel in the series and our hero has to pretend to be a traitor . It is probably best to read the books in order. Suffice it to say I love these stories and you are transported to Tudor England with the fine writing . I highly recommend all in the series .
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on 18 January 2014
Boltfoot Cooper is tasked with protecting a spyglass and the man who can use it. John Shakespeare is sent to Lancashire to protect the man who made it. His adopted son, Andrew Woode, runs into trouble at Oxford university. All three are brought together in Northern France to defend England's realm and the good name of the Queen.

This is the fourth book in the series and Clements has really hit his stride in terms of the writing. As most of the characters are now known by readers there is little filling in of previous story lines, for example the background to the death of Shakespeare's wife is completely omitted as that was an integral part of the previous book. I found it hard to see how the various parts of the plot were going to come together, indeed I found the whole bit about Andrew Woode and the vagabonds a bit annoying, but come together they did. I particularly like the double conclusion - the battle which brought to an end the bigger plot but the concluding few chapters which tied up some plot lines and left enough to make me await the next book.
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2014
This is the fourth novel in the author's series of Elizabethan murder mysteries featuring John Shakespeare. I have felt fairly lukewarm about this series compared to the other Tudor mystery series I have followed. While it had its moments and aspects of interest (the vagabond sub-culture, for example), the plot rather dragged and I found it too convoluted. I warmed only slightly to John and his associate Boltfoot Cooper, who are not for me in the same league as Matthew Shardlake and Jack Barak. Shakespeare's adopted son Andrew Woode impressed, though. 3.5/5
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on 8 July 2012
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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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 26 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( 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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on 23 January 2014
I enjoyed this book on Kindle and agree with much of what has gone before. My comment about soap operas is to do with the way that, unless a particularly "heavy" topic is being treated, in soap operas the action usually moves very quickly from scene to scene in an attempt, I have always assumed, to ensure that all story lines are kept as up to date as possible. Similarly in this book, the action often moves very swiftly from scene to scene within the same chapter and this heightens the sense of drama and tension. On to The Heretics!
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on 12 June 2014
Couldn't wait to start reading this current Rory Clements book. Although I haven't finished it yet as per usual I am hooked. Being a lover of history especially Tudor/Elizabethan I am really into these 'who dun nit's' set in this period. Whilst I realise they are not actually factual they give me a different glimpse to life in those times. Thank you Mr Clements - all I need do now is to wait for your next offering !
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