“From infancy on, we are all spies; the shame is not this but that the secrets to be discovered are so paltry and few.”— John Updike

Secrets have always been a source of intrigue, who has them, why they keep them, and secrets are often a driving force in novels. Our latest read transports us to Elizabethan England to combat the assassination plots revolving around two queens.

The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver Clements

“The Eyes of the Queen” is the first book in the “An Agent of the Crown” series by Oliver Clements, which the author used to busily lay the groundwork for his new spy series. The historical fiction series revolves around the original MI6 agents.

Clements’ book lurches with a wobbly start as readers are quickly thrust into the thick of a spy plot when the cunning Walsingham and a colleague rush into violence to recover a document. The first 50 pages or so of the historical fiction spy novel will leave readers’ heads spinning as they are quickly introduced to a menagerie of characters without a moment to register their involvement in the actual story. Once Clements introduces John Dee to the reader, the story gains a more balanced pace as the author leaves bread crumbs about Dee’s ties to Queen Elizabeth I.

The story itself, which revolves around Walsingham’s efforts to derail a Spanish invasion and protect the queen from the treachery of an assassin’s bullet, rapidly moves through France, England and Scotland as the characters puzzle out their foe’s plot.

Given that this book is intended to be the first in a series readers can forgive the hasty and at times cluttered pages, however readers might find it helpful to make notes about the characters as there are quite a number of characters that make a brief appearance only to play a larger role later on in the novel. The book will be published by Simon & Schuster on Oct. 27.

From the book jacket…

After centuries locked in an endless cycle of poverty, persecution, and barbarity, Europe has finally emerged into the Age of Enlightenment. Scientists, philosophers, scholars, and poets alike believe this to be a new era of reason and hope for all. But the forces of darkness haven’t completely dissipated, as Spain hunts and butchers any who dare to defy its ironclad Catholic orthodoxy.

Only one nation can fight the black shadow that threatens this new age, and that is Britain, now ruled by a brilliant young Queen Elizabeth I. But although she may be brave and headstrong, Elizabeth knows she cannot win this war simply by force of arms. After her armies have been slashed in half, her treasury is on its knees. Elizabeth needs a new kind of weapon forged to fight a new kind of war, in which stealth and secrecy, not bloodshed, are the means.

In this tense situation, Her Majesty’s Secret Service is born with the charismatic John Dee at its head. A scholar, a soldier, and an alchemist, Dee is loyal only to the truth and to his Queen. And for her, the woman he’s forbidden from loving, he is prepared to risk his life.

If you enjoy…

Readers looking for more espionage with a historical slant are sure to enjoy work by Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

tinamarie.craven@hearstmediact.com