Martyr by Rory Clements


I really enjoyed this book. I like to vary my reading so I went from something emotional and sad to this book about Elizabethan England and the book I’ve just started reading is about a personal shopper. It’s nice to have some variety.

Martyr is a tale of finding the culprit to a gruesome murder of a lady from a prominent family at a time when religion was a tricky subject in England.

When the crown decided to choose the religion of the country the Catholics were hounded and forced to worship in the safety of their own home. They hoped to remain unnoticed by the Queen’s Men who sought to lock them up for heresy.

In a time when the Tower of London gaolers were feared for their torture techniques, where there were public hangings and when prominent heads would be displayed on spikes in the street as a warning, who could blame them for running scared.

Many Catholic families hid priests in specially built priest holes that were concealed with expert care in the walls of their houses. But the Queen’s Men would destroy houses looking for such holes and leave wealthy families with ruins of mansions to repair.

Torture was legal and prisons were hard labour for those who were unable to pay the wardens for an easy ride. The wealthier prisoners ate well and were even allowed access to priests for the right money.

Prostitution was a well-known scourge on the city with venereal diseases rife due to uneducated people and no means of medication to cure them. Yet it wasn’t only the lower classes that visited the ‘Winchester Geese’, allowing many reputable bawdy house to continue with little fuss.

Rory Clements writes about John Shakespeare, the brother of William who became a key intelligencer for the Queen. His investigations saved a threat on Sir Frances Drake’s life that allowed the Armada to sail and conquer the Spanish, saving England from war.

Then there is Richard Topcliffe a man of his own making, a useful weapon to the Queen in terms of ridding the world of the Jesuit priests so a blind eye is turned to his methods. Leaving a man with unhealthy desires unchecked turns the man into a monster and no one is safe from his warped sense of justice.

The book is dark, with turns you don’t expect and I liked it. The fleeting introduction of Will and his band of players dressed as militia was a welcome surprise to get one over on the evil Topcliffe.

There are more books in the John Shakespeare series and I think I will be adding them to my reading pile after enjoying this one.

I think it will make a good addition to my friends holiday reading pile too, she likes stories of gruesome murders!


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