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Revenger by Rory Clements
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Revenger (2010)

by Rory Clements

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A powerful novel featuring John Shakespeare (brother of Will - you may have heard of him...) as a retired 'intelligencer' (spy) called back into service to foil nefarious plots, defeat blackguards a-plenty and save the monarchy, and by extension, the nation. Clements has a good sense of the right historical details to include and linger on and he uses language well. Speech is Elizabethan in tone, but not so much that it overpowers action and character. Shakespeare's rocky relationship with his wife Catherine over her illegal-at-the-time Catholicism rang true and is sensitively handled. A fine romp with black hats and white hats to hiss or cheer as the action moves swiftly to a satisfying conclusion. ( )
  pierthinker | Sep 9, 2013 |
This is a tale of altered history, using John Shakespeare, the brother of William, as the sleuth. William even makes a brief appearance and plays a role. The first in this series was “Martyr” and introduced Shakespeare as an “intelligencer” for Her Majesty, the Queen of England, Elizabeth I.
As the second book opens, John has retired from a palace and political intrigue to serve as headmaster of the Margaret Woode School for Poor Boys. His first main problem is an instructor who is too harsh with the students, but whom he is stuck with. The instructor was foisted upon him by the Protestant Bishop as an agent to keep track that no Roman Catholic leanings creep into the curriculum. His second worry is the Roman Catholic faith of his beloved wife, Catherine. She refuses to keep it hidden, a dangerous position in England at this time. John worries for his wife and his young daughter.
Queen Elizabeth, to whom John is loyal, has enemies. England has defeated the Spanish Armada, but Spain is regrouping and King Philip remains a threat. There may also be a plot to arrange a marriage between Lady Arabella Stuart, generally acknowledged to be next in line to the English throne, to Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. This would be a powerful alliance and could topple the queen.
Some rough characters convince John to get back into the intrigue game, some working for Sir Robert Cecil, some for Essex. John isn’t quite sure who is on the side of the queen and who is against her. When John’s wife quits speaking to him after she narrowly misses a trip to the Tower with the Catholic priest she follows, his troubles are compounded. Somehow, his family is entangled in a plot to overthrow his monarch and he must use his wits to keep this from happening.
The book is quite long for a mystery, but there’s excitement and conspiracy on almost every page to keep the reader’s interest.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Choke”, for Suspense Magazine ( )
  suspensemag | Oct 12, 2011 |
This is the second offering in Rory Clements's series featuring the intelligencer John Shakespeare, now, following the death of Walsingham, working for Robert Cecil. This is a grim story involving the famous lost American colony of Roanoke and the headstrong activities of the Earl of Essex. It contains some interesting characters, including some of the most unpleasant ones I've encountered in historical fiction (Topcliffe is real, though). I'm still not sure if I like John Shakespeare - for me he still largely lacks the human appeal of Sansom's Shardlake. ( )
  john257hopper | May 20, 2011 |
The novel has it all: good writing, authentic historical environment, interesting theories, very well developed characters and mystery behind all that. ( )
  everfresh1 | Apr 12, 2011 |
This is the second in Rory Clements John Shakespeare Elizabethan series. The story continues in 'Revenger' with Shakespeare being once more being involved against his will in the world of the intelligencer. Robert Cecil has taken over as spymaster after the death of Sir Francis Walsingham has persuaded him to infiltrate the household of the Earl of Essex. He is to attempt to find proof of plots against Queen Elizabeth and bring secret papers concerning these to his new master.
The evil Topcliffe continues to dog Shakespeare's footsteps and also to make himself busy in his torture chamber. There are also several lesser villains lurking throughout the story and these together with Topcliffe carry the story along at a fine pace. As I've said before,the baddies get the best parts in many books and films,while the good and upright characters can sometimes come over as a little insipid. While this is not the case with Shakespeare and his assistant Boltfoot, a few of the others are slightly that way.
Overall however,this is an excellent follow-up to 'Martyr' and this reader at least looks forward with eager anticipation to the next book in this series. ( )
  devenish | Aug 1, 2010 |
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Chief Intelligencer John Shakespeare, the bard's younger brother, is summoned out of retirement back to the dangerous intrigues of the palace when a plot against the aging Queen Elizabeth I causes her to be targeted by two of England's most powerful men.… (more)

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