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John Shakespeare Books In Order

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Publication Order of John Shakespeare Books

Martyr (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
Revenger (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
Prince (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
Traitor (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Man in the Snow (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Heretics (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Queen's Man (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
Holy Spy (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Chronologically. The Heretics takes place after Traitor.

John Shakespeare is the lead protagonist of the John Shakespeare historical mystery series of novels by Rory Clements. The first novel in the series that introduced John Shakespeare was “Martyr” that was first published in 2009 to much critical acclaim and commercial success. Given the early success of the debut novel, Rory would go on to publish several more titles in the still ongoing series. The John Shakespeare novels are set in Elizabethan England, during a period of much political, social, religious, and economic intrigue not only in England, but also on the continent. The lead character in the series is the fictional John Shakespeare, the brother of bard extraordinaire William Shakespeare. John is a compelling, strong, credible, and moral man living in an immoral society. Clements writes impressive narratives with fictional plots that evoke the sense of the bygone eras. He records history in all its unhygienic glory and gory as the Elizabethans strive to get ahead in a constantly changing world. Clements creates an interesting universe with complicated plots and subplots that combine mystery with political intrigue to make for a great read full of soul and wit.

John Shakespeare the lead in the series is first introduced as a man working under principal secretary Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I’s original spy chief. Working in intelligence, he is charged with protecting important persons of the realm, solve murders, and undertake daring missions, all the while navigating the social politics and court intrigues of his day. John has been compared to the Shardlake character of the Shardlake series of novels by C. J. Sansom, in being thoughtful, sensitive, smart and questioning of the power abuses by the English royals. The supporting cast in the series comprises quite an interesting mix from John’s boss Walsingham, Sir Francis Drake, and his friend Boltfoot Cooper. Over the course of the series, Shakespeare has to deal with the villainous Richard Topcliffe an Elizabethan operative who unlike John is totally reprehensible. Similar to William Shakespeare’s villains he is close to being evil incarnate who is constantly getting into John’s nerves with his villainous acts in the name of the crown. Topcliffe who is supposedly on the same side as John often destroys, hides, and subverts witnesses, evidence, and information. Unlike the fictional John Shakespeare, Topcliffe is an actual historical character who made a name for himself as a bloodthirsty character with a predilection for torture. He casts a horrifying and long shadow on everything that happens in intelligence terrifying everyone that encountered him. Given that he knows many of John’s secrets, he can easily undermine his family, his position in the government, which makes him quite a dangerous character.

The John Shakespeare series of novels are set in the latter part of the Elizabethan era. The period was marked by social and political upheavals, rumors of conspiracies, and religious tension between Protestants and Catholics. This was a time when England was at loggerheads with its neighbors, particularly the Spanish, that had only been recently been defeated but were still raring to go. With Elizabeth getting on in age, the issue of succession was also an issue and hence Sir Francis Walsingham and his army of intelligencers were more important than ever. Given the times, Shakespeare often finds himself having to confront the realities and fears of Catholics and Protestants alike, his hearts desires and his own beliefs while doing his job. This was a time when religious schisms were a reality for the many of England’s poor that held the powerful, rich, and violent persons of their time in thrall. The John Shakespeare novels are descriptive and graphic novels portraying the extravagance of the royal court, the developing countryside, and the squalor of the city. They provide greater insight into the lives of the ordinary folk as compared to many authors in the genre that only focus on life in the court while excluding everything else.

“Revenger” the second novel in the series is set in the latter part of the 16th century during a period when Spain and England were at the height of war, with England also feeling the pressure of a restive populace at home. Sir Francis Walsingham is dead leaving the country vulnerable to the Spanish. With rumors of conspiracy abounding, John Shakespeare who had retired a year earlier is recalled back into the intelligencer services. He has to find some important documents in the keep of the Earl of Sussex. The Earl who is an ambitious man has been wooing the queen even though she is thirty-three years her senior. The queen is flattered by the attention even as she loathes Lettice Knollys, the Earl’s mother who holds sway over her own court of persons disaffected with Elizabeth I. John Shakespeare’s investigations soon reveal that not only is the queen in mortal danger of assassination, but he together with his family find themselves in the cross hairs. With Boltfoot Cooper his able lieutenant the only man he can trust, he faces impossible odds while confronting murderous men and women who will commit murder without batting an eyelid in their quest for power. With Walsingham dead, he faces an even more complex situation with his new boss Robert Cecil, whose loyalties are yet unclear.

“Martyr” is an ingenious debut of the John Shakespeare series of novels introducing the Elizabethan era intelligence operative John Shakespeare. The novel is a combination of a crime thriller and historical fiction telling of a conspiracy and murder. One of the queen’s cousins turns up dead, with bizarre and seemingly occult symbols marked on her skin. Meanwhile, Sir Francis Drake the hero of Anglo Spanish war is the target of an assassination conspiracy, a plot that could devastate the country if it were to be successful. John Shakespeare is charged with resolving both cases even as the country faces the threat of the Spanish Armada ready to attack. The country is on the brink of chaos and only Shakespeare that can save it. He follows a trail of family secrets and illicit passions and traverses the underworld of whores, sorcerers, spies, and actors, among whom is William Shakespeare his younger brother and struggling playwright. Not to be outdone by Topcliffe the terrible, his intelligencer colleague, Shakespeare uses his wits to draw a picture of a breathtaking and complex conspiracy, which could have horrifying implications for the English crown. A cunning and zealous killer is loose on the streets of England, and it is now up to Shakespeare to uncover his identity. But as he inches closer to unmasking the identity of the man, he risks becoming a martyr in a conspiracy and murder quest that promises to have far reaching consequences.

Book Series In Order » Characters » John Shakespeare

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