Top positive review
Engaging and believable tale
19 February 2018
The Incendium of the title is fire: in the wake of the bloody Massacre of St Bartholomew's eve in France, plotters are engaged in creating the same fire and mayhem which will literally and metaphorically burn out the Protestant heresy in England, remove Elizabeth the First from her throne and crown Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, in her place. Into these endless religious wars, comes Dr Christopher Radcliffe a former academic who is now working for the Earl of Leicester, whose life is dedicated to protecting the Queen whom he still loves, from horrors on the scale of those happening across the Channel. Radcliffe, whilst relatively new to spying and to London, has nevertheless begun to build a coterie of intelligencers who report to him with all the whispers of plots, rumours galore and most importantly, names, gathered from the streets, brothels and drinking dens which are a light year away from the opulent, but vulnerable royal court.
The writer's pace is pretty good and he has crafted an absorbing tale with a believable cast of characters set against a true historical event. Radcliffe is sent on a mission to Paris to rendezvous with Sir Francis Walsingham who is based there for a time: he sees the Massacre and its aftermath and takes his life in his hands in escaping the beleaguered city to return to England with the news and evidence of a parallel plot which could be released on Elizabeth's England unless traitors are found and stopped.
The author has mined another rich seam from the fascinating Elizabethan age, and his hero is an attractive, imperfect but dedicated man trying to do his best with limited resources, a sharp dagger and his considerable intelligence. Good stuff and we will see more of Dr Radcliffe I have no doubt. Looking forward to that.