Book review: The Tudor Conspiracy by Christopher Gortner

‘I know what it is to hide a secret and pretend that I can be like any other man… I believed that in denying the truth, I would be safe.’

Wednesday, 15th January 2014, 10:00 am
The Tudor Conspiracy by Christopher Gortner

At the court of Queen Mary Tudor, spying is a perilous game and no one knows that better than Brendan Prescott, an agent in the service of the Protestant Princess Elizabeth and a man whose past poses as much danger as the present.

Welcome to the world of 16th century espionage and the second novel in US author Christopher Gortner’s Elizabeth’s Spymaster series which weaves edge-of-the-seat thrillers out of one of English history’s most exciting and turbulent periods.

High romance and court politics are at the heart of these richly detailed and imaginative stories which brim with treachery, death and intrigue and feature some of the leading players of the Tudor age.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In 1554 a harsh winter grips the realm and at Princess Elizabeth’s home at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, royal ‘minder’ Prescott is enjoying the company of the new love in his life, Kate Stafford, the ward of William Cecil, the princess’s protector and spymaster.

Mary Tudor is now queen and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower but rumours of a plot to depose the queen are swirling around Elizabeth, the one person many consider to be England’s heir and only hope.

When Cecil brings news that Mary is planning marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip of Spain and that one of the terms of the betrothal is the return of England to the Catholic faith, Prescott is ordered back to London on a dangerous mission.

Simon Renard, the Spanish ambassador to the English court, deems Elizabeth a heretic and ‘menace to the queen’ and will stop at nothing until the threat she poses is removed.

‘We can guide her to her destiny – you and I,’ Cecil tells Prescott. ‘But first we must keep her alive…’

Haunted by his past and obliged to return to the palace at Whitehall where he almost lost his life, Prescott finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary who orders him to secure proof of Elizabeth’s treason.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, he must race against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters knowing that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing and no one is what it seems.

Impeccably researched and packed with powerful emotions, The Tudor Conspiracy blends history and mystery in a fast-paced, multi-layered story with more twists and turns than the dark alleyways of 1550s London.

Prescott is growing into a well-rounded central character… flawed, vulnerable, resolute and courageous as he negotiates a fine line through the malevolence and machinations of a country torn apart by religious rivalry.

Roll on his next adventure…

(Hodder, paperback, £8.99)