As Queen Elizabeth I lay dying, intelligencer Martin Marbeck’s life is in turmoil.
Marbeck had been Secretary of State Sir Robert Cecil’s best spy. But now he’s cut out, suspected of double-dealing. His lover, Lady Celia Scroop, begs him to go to Oxford, where her son Henry, who’s attached himself to ranting puritanical preacher Isaac Gow, is about to abandon his studies. A trip to Oxford only shows how deeply Henry is involved. Marbeck is unable to detach him from the group who dislikes Elizabeth’s reign and is even more unhappy that King James of Scotland, reputed to have Catholic leanings, is about to become ruler of England. Marbeck follows the group to Cambridge, where he meets Poyns, an intelligencer who trusts his loyalty but is unable to help. Upon returning to London, Marbeck seeks out Cecil’s trusted employee Nicholas Prout, who believes in Marbeck's innocence and sends him, along with another spy, to infiltrate a group of papists that has gathered troops and arms to put a Spanish infanta on the throne. Marbeck treads a dangerous path. Upon blowing up the rebels’ armory, he barely escapes with his life. King James is making slow progress toward London, his life in danger at every turn. Marbeck must use all his many wiles to rescue Henry, protect the new monarch and get back into Cecil’s good graces.
The second in this fine series (Marbeck and the Double-Dealer, 2013) provides all the derring-do and historical interest needed to keep readers entranced.