An Elizabethan spy travels far and wide in the service of his queen.
Marbeck, an often rash younger son, makes a precarious living as an intelligencer for Queen Elizabeth I, whose coldhearted secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil, is England’s spymaster. Although Marbeck has just escaped capture by the Spanish in Antwerp, a friend was not so lucky. Marbeck, a master at role-playing, must assume several new identities to accomplish the task Cecil has set him: find Morera, the double agent who is revealing England’s secrets to the Spanish. Marbeck journeys to France, where a dying agent sends him to one of Morera’s informants, the Comtesse de Paiva. Posing as an arms dealer looking to trade with the Spanish, Marbeck is welcomed by the Comtesse, but that night, he is attacked and captured by the Spanish, who take him to a ship for questioning. Marbeck slips away and returns to the Comtesse, who admits having taken Spanish spy Juan Roble as her lover. Barely escaping from the Comtesse’s angry husband, Marbeck makes his way to Paris, where he questions another English spy before returning home. Even in London he is dogged by the Spanish, who seek to hide the identities of their agents. Marbeck must use every skill at his command to win the dangerous game.
In a departure from his series featuring Thomas the Falconer (The Muscovy Chain, 2007, etc.), Pilkington introduces an intriguing new hero in the dashing Marbeck in an eventful tale packed with the usual Elizabethan minutiae.