THE FIREDRAKE'S EYE by Patricia Finney


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 By the author of two superior adventures set in Roman Britain (A Shadow of Gulls, 1977; The Crow Goddess, 1979), a splendid Elizabethan cat-and-mouse, spy-and-chase tale based on real events of 1583, and featuring dazzling, death-teasing principals surrounding a Spanish plot to assassinate Elizabeth I. Spies and counterspies, warriors, poets and poet madmen, pawns and populace- -all speak here in a diction remarkably echoing with the flavor of an earlier English--gamy, efficient, unobtrusive, unblemished by sprinklings of ``i` faith'' or other cribbings from the Bard. Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's chief of her secret service, directs from his chambers the latest chase of plotters against the Queen. The Mundus Papyri (world of paper) is what Walsingham dubs the blizzard of clues from purloined letters and bits and scraps of information. Meanwhile, in seedy London digs, Becket--penniless, a veteran of wars--feeds his pet rat, while roaming and discoursing with angels is a former schoolmate in law, mad Ralph Strangways (``Poor Tom''), whose brother Adam sent him to Bedlam to suffer. Brother Adam is about to perform the holy duty of killing that ``pure white hind,'' Elizabeth I, by aiming through the eye of a parade dragon. Then worrying, gut-gripping, in the two worlds of paper and swords and daggers, is brilliant cryptographer and clerk to Walsingham, Simon Ames, a Portuguese Jew who will track down the chief traitor, witness horror in the Tower, comfort a dying woman, and be the target of several murder attempts involving his new friend Becket, the noble soul of less than noble activities. Inevitably, however, the firedrake (dragon) will move to the Queen.... Finney's brainy sleuths race like whippets toward the prey, while tossing up more turmoil, deaths, and betrayal beside a treacherous Thames, although here and there are times of quiet love, companionship, and slap-up humor. In all: just fine. (And there's an invaluable list of characters with real personages starred.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-07749-1
Page count: 263pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992


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