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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Revenger by Rory Clements

 Revenger  is a historical mystery set in the Elizabethan period.  The novel casts John Shakespeare (Will's older brother) as an "intelligencer" for Sir Francis Walsingham, the great spymaster who gathered intelligence both at home and abroad that might help protect and strengthen Queen Elizabeth's reign.  Walsingham's intelligencers provided information that helped prevent several domestic plots against the queen and also proved extremely useful in foreign diplomacy.

After the death of Walsingham, John Shakespeare retired from the game and now runs a school for boys.  Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex, recruits John to  locate a young woman who may be Elizabeth Dare from the vanished Roanoke Colony.  If it is Elizabeth, how did she survive the fate of the rest of the colonists and return to England?

Robert Cecil, who replaced Walsingham as Elizabeth's Secretary of State, then approaches John and requests that John keep a close eye on the Earl of Essex, who may have some dangerous plans of his own.  Cecil and Essex have a personal rivalry, but Cecil has specific suspicions regarding Essex's current activities.

The Catholic/Protestant divisions have a great deal to do with the uncertainty of the times, and Clements addresses the danger of being a Catholic or even having Catholic sympathies during Elizabeth's reign.  Clements also covers many other unpleasant elements of the period:  the double-dealing and intrigue, the use of torture, the violence, the poverty, and the political machinations.  While many of the situations are purely fiction, they give insight into Elizabethan political and social conventions.

Although the explanation about what happened to the Roanoke Colony and about the Earl of Essex's marriage plans are speculative fiction, the novel includes plenty of actual events.

Fiction.  Historical Fiction/Mystery.  2011.  448 pages.


  1. Sounds like a book I would love to read!! Thanks for the review!

  2. Kailana - I should have compared it to C.J. Sansom's novels. I intended to make the comparison, but got in a hurry. I liked a lot of elements in this novel, but Sansom's Matthew Shardlake is still my favorite.

    Sherri - If you like historical mysteries you might enjoy this one. As I mentioned to Kailana, C.J. Sansom does this period exceptionally well, and I should have included a mention of his books in the post.