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Martyr: John Shakespeare 1 Paperback – 14 Jan 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 268 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; paperback / softback edition (14 Jan. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848540787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848540781
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.8 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This is a historical thriller to send a shiver down your spine. (Daily Mail)

Clements can be seen as doing for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's. (Sunday Times)

John Shakespeare is one of the great historical sleuths. (Barry Forshaw)

A colourful history lesson ... exciting narrative twists. (Sunday Telegraph)

An engrossing thriller. (Washington Post)

Book Description

For fans of CJ Sansom and SJ Parris, MARTYR is the first in Rory Clements' acclaimed and bestselling John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers. Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, 'does for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's' Sunday Times

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another engrossing Tudor thriller from Mr Clements. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Full of twists and turns. Very glad I found this author and this is now the third book of his I have read. In this book England is still troubled by Catholics who would love to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Even though Mary Queen of Scots finally loses her head, the danger is not over. John Shakespeare, one of Walsingham's more efficient intelligencers is tasked with finding out who killed Lady Blanche Howard, a Catholic and the adopted daughter of Lord Howard of Effingham who is a cousin of the Queen. Lady Blanche is killed in a particularly gruesome way and has been tortured first. As if this is not enough, a secret plot is uncovered to assassinate Francis Drake the naval hero. Spain is planning to send its armada to England and Drake is the hope of the nation. But Spain want him dead and Shakespeare also has to find the killer before he strikes. His efforts are thwarted by his enemy Sir Richard Topcliffe who is close to the Queen and seems to get away with murder - literally! Shakespeare also finds romance with a Catholic lady. I suppose that her character will feature further in other novels to come. Well researched and written with a very believable plot and rounded characters. You can feel, smell, see and hear the dangerous times of Tudor England.
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