British author Rory Clements has returned with his fifth in his "John Shakespeare" series, "The Queen's Man". However, inexplicably, the novel is actually first in sense of time. For everyone who's read the adventures of John Shakespeare, the "intelligencer" to Francis Walsingham, here's the back story. It also includes more about brother Will than have any of the previous books.
Rory Clements has placed this Shakespeare novel in the early 1580's, when the queen, Elizabeth I, was trying to maneuver her country's way to worship the "new faith" - Protestantism, Church of England, Anglican - no matter what it was referred to, it was not the "old faith", that of the Roman Catholic Church. The Queen was beset by low-grade but constant problems both at home and abroad and she employed Sir Francis Walsingham as her "spymaster". He, in turn, employed "intelligencers" to do his bidding in trying to discern plots against the crown. One such man was "John Shakespeare", a character Rory Clements has made up, and has taken his readers on adventures in his previous book. (William Shakespeare did not have an older brother called "John", at least according to the bio on Wikipedia, but his father was "John Shakespeare".)
In "Queen's Man", Walsingham - who is always stingy with information his "intelligencer" SHOULD know before sending them on their way - is concerned with the presence of Mary, Queen of Scots, who is imprisoned in a castle in England. She is guarded - supposedly well - but there is a question of plots by the French and some home-grown Catholics, to free her and send her to France. Walsingham wants to ferret out the truth and the names of the conspirators. He's also interested in finding out the extent of "recusancy" in the Stratford area. "Recusancy" was the state of those who refused to attend Anglican services and were considered "Popish recusants". Poor John Shakespeare is sent off to investigate this all, and eventually, by book's end, most of the loose ends are tied up in a very satisfactory fashion. (Except, of course, for those murdered in heinous ways).
Rory Clements' novels can almost be considered history texts. The reader learns so much about court politics, national politics, social issues, methods of war, etc, of the 1580's and 1590's, that we are educated by his work. This book, "The Queen's Man", is such a good book and would be the best way for a first-time Rory Clements reader to begin begin looking at Elizabethan England.