Sunday 30 December 2018

My favourite reads of 2018

My favourite reads of 2018 have been a mixture of historical, true crime, debut novels, non-fiction and continuing series.  It has been rather difficult to narrow them down.  They all made me realise why I enjoy reading this genre so much and also why it is in such robust health. In alphabetical order my favourite reads are as follows –

Jonathan Abrams’s All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire (Oldcastle Books) is in my opinion a love affair to The Wire. Since its final episode aired in 2008, the acclaimed crime drama The Wire has only become more popular and influential. The issues it tackled, from the failures of the drug war and criminal justice system to systemic bias in law enforcement and other social institutions have become more urgent and topical. It is arguably without doubt one of the great works of art America has produced in the 21st century.  But while there has been a great deal of critical analysis of the show and its themes, until now there has never been a definitive, behind-the-scenes take on how it came to be made. With unparalleled access to all the key actors and writers involved in its creation, Jonathan Abrams tells the astonishing, compelling, and complete account of The Wire, from its inception and creation through to its end and powerful legacy.  It may be over ten years ago since the last episode of The Wire was shown but its impact has certainly not been dimmed and All The Pieces Matter just re-enforces why The Wire is such a seminal piece of writing.  If you are wishing for another season of The Wire then hopefully All The Pieces Matter will suffice.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Orion Publishing) picks up the story of detective Harry Bosch in the first novel in a new series, pairing Bosch’s talents with that of Renee Ballard, who made her entrance in the Ballard series-opener The Late Show.  At the end of a long, dark night Detectives Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch cross paths for the very first time.  Detective Renee Ballard is working the graveyard shift again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find that an older man has snuck in and is rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is none other than legendary LAPD detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch, working a cold case that has crept under his skin.  Unimpressed, Ballard kicks him out, but eventually Bosch persuades her to help and she reluctantly relents. Because Bosch is on the trail of a cold case which refuses to stay buried; investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway who was brutally murdered. It’s a case that haunts Bosch - who crossed paths with Daisy’s devastated mother on a previous case. As Bosch and Ballard are drawn deeper into the mystery of her murder, they find there are more surprises awaiting them in the darkness.  Michael Connelly is in top form with Dark Sacred Night and it is interesting to see him team up with another detective to solve a cold case.  Furthermore it is good to see Bosch realising that he can no longer do some of the things he used to be able to and has to rely on someone else. As usual impeccable writing, compelling storyline and incredibly descriptive. Michael Connelly never lets the reader down and in his case he has brought another brilliant partnership to our attention.

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly (Hodder and Stoughton) features of course that eponymous private detective Charlie Parker who first came to our attention in the debut novel Every Dead Thing.  Since then John Connolly and Charlie Parker have consistently been amongst my favourite reads.  The Woman in the Woods is no exception. It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death. But there is no sign of a baby.  Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake...  Charlie Parker is a brilliant, sympathetic anti-hero that finds himself fighting a progressively sinister and complex world.  As a recurring series Charlie Parker is amongst the best.

I am always sceptical when authors are asked to continue long running series after the original author has passed away and tend to view and read them with a large dose of salt.  Some get it right, some don’t.  In the case of Money in the Morgue (Harper Collins), Stella Duffy got it spot on. It's business as usual for Mr Glossop as he does his regular round delivering wages to government buildings scattered across New Zealand's lonely Canterbury plains. But when his car breaks down he is stranded for the night at the isolated Mount Seager Hospital, with the telephone lines down, a storm on its way and the nearby river about to burst its banks.  Trapped with him at Mount Seager are a group of quarantined soldiers with a serious case of cabin fever, three young employees embroiled in a tense love triangle, a dying elderly man, an elusive patient whose origins remain a mystery ... and a potential killer.  When the payroll disappears from a locked safe and the hospital's death toll starts to rise faster than normal, can the appearance of an English detective working in counterespionage be just a lucky coincidence - or is something more sinister afoot? Roderick Alleyn is back in this unique crime novel begun by Ngaio Marsh during the Second World War and completed by Stella Duffy in a way that has delighted reviewers and critics alike.  Murder in the Morgue is so superbly written that as a reader one is in the unique position of reading a seamless book.  Fans of Ngaio Marsh also get to renew their acquaintance with an author who is considered to be one of the Queen’s of crime!  A wonderful book to read and savour.

The Poison Bed is by E C Fremantle (Penguin Books) and is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.  A king, his lover and his lover's wife. One is a killer.  In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom. Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake. Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?  The Poison Bed is a fascinating tale of intrigue and ambition and full of period detail.   It is dark, riveting and murderous and with its immaculate detail overwhelmingly atmospheric. This is a Jacobean mystery that does not pull any punches.

Mick Herron’s The Drop (Hodder and Stoughton) is a Slough House series novella.  Old spooks carry the memory of tradecraft in their bones, and when Solomon Dortmund sees an envelope being passed from one pair of hands to another in a Marylebone cafe, he knows he's witnessed more than an innocent encounter. But in relaying his suspicions to John Bachelor, who babysits retired spies like Solly, he sets in train events, which will alter lives. Bachelor himself, a hair's breadth away from sleeping in his car, is clawing his way back to stability; Hannah Weiss, the double agent whose recruitment was his only success, is starting to enjoy the secrets and lies her role demands; and Lech Wicinski, an Intelligence Service analyst, finds that a simple favour for an old acquaintance might derail his career. Meanwhile, Lady Di Taverner is trying to keep the Service on an even keel, and if that means throwing the odd crewmember overboard, well: collateral damage is her speciality.  A drop, in spook parlance, is the passing on of secret information.  It's also what happens just before you hit the ground.  Elegantly written, wry with a subtle wit The Drop is a welcome addition to the Slough House series.  Mick Herron’s redundant spies are a joy to be around and surely this must be the best series around featuring a wonderful team of inept and frustrating spies.  Unlike the novels, The Drop is much more of a classic spy novel with a traditional setting along with agents in the field.  However, this is novella is worth reading for the outrageous jokes alone. Sublime.

If you have never read Gregg Hurwitz Orphan X series then I suggest that you do so pretty quickly. It is one of those series that keeps on getting better and is full of intense action and emotional rollercoasters.  In Hellbent (Penguin Books) to some he is Orphan X. Others know him as the Nowhere Man. But to veteran spymaster Jack Johns he will always be a boy named Evan Smoak.  Taken from an orphanage, Evan was raised inside a top-secret programme designed turn him into a deadly weapon. Jack became his instructor, mentor, teacher and guardian. Because for all the dangerous skills he instilled in his young charge, he also cared for Evan like a son. And now Jack needs Evan's help.  The Orphan programme hid dark secrets. Now those with blood on their hands want every trace of it gone. And they will stop at nothing to make sure that Jack and Evan go with it.  With little time remaining, Jack gives Evan his last assignment: to find and protect the programme's last recruit. And to stay alive long enough to uncover the shocking truth ...  Hellbent is a brilliant twisty page turning thriller that will leave you gasping. This is the type of novel that in my opinion reiterates how well thrillers are doing and why they continue to be amongst the widest read.

Laura Lippman is one of the few authors whose books make me wish that I actually wrote novels. She is one of the best novelists around and her work constantly gives the reader not only hours of joy but food for thought.  Sunburn (Faber & Faber) is a noir gem of a novel that is reminiscent of James M Cain.  What kind of woman walks out on her family? Gregg knows. The kind of woman he picked up in a bar three years ago precisely because she had that kind of wildcat energy. And now she's vanished - at least from the life that he and his kid will live. We'll follow her, to a new town, a new job, and a new friend, who thinks he has her figured. So who is this woman who calls herself Polly? How many times has she disappeared before? And who are the shadowy figures so interested in her whereabouts?   There is a sultry femme fatale ambiance that permeates throughout the novel and this certainly brings a sense of noir to the fore despite the fact that the novel is set in the 1990s. If you haven’t done so already then read Sunburn and also Laura Lippman’s backlist. You certainly won’t regret it.

Everyone has a secret... Only some lead to murder. The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve (Bloomsbury Publishing) introduces Leo Stanhope: a Victorian transgender coroner's assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future When the body of a young woman is wheeled into the hospital where Leo Stanhope works, his life is thrown into chaos. Maria, the woman he loves, has been murdered and it is not long before the finger of suspicion is turned on him, threatening to expose his lifelong secret. For Leo Stanhope was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. Knowing he was meant to be a man - despite the evidence of his body - and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo ever since: his secret known to only a few trusted people. Desperate to find Maria's killer and thrown into gaol, he stands to lose not just his freedom, but ultimately his life.  This is a mysterious Victorian crime novel with a troubled but fascinated narrator.   His transgenderisim is handled incredibly well along with the other resulting issues that take their toll.  Told in first person this is an enthralling psychological murder that is original and has a brilliant premise.  Wonderfully atmospheric The House on Half Moon Street is exactly what a Victorian murder mystery should be.

A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott (Transworld Publishing) is an espionage thriller to rival the very best; a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, played in the shadows, which will keep you guessing every step of the way. An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Ines Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders. To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way - and who will kill to keep their secrets safe....  If you are a fan of espionage thrillers then this is a fascinating read. It is beautifully written and one of the best spy thrillers that has recently been written.

Stuart Turton’s debut novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Bloomsbury Publishing) is a brilliant, high concept murder with nods to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.  Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'  It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once.  Until Aiden - one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party - can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again; Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...  A story within a story, a highly original read with an intriguing storyline and a depiction of Blackheath that will leave you fascinated. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an unusual concept that plays with all the tropes and conventions of the Golden Age of detection and is certainly worth reading.   

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Orion Publishing).  For many Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.  Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner's full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.  Sally Horner's story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel's creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.  I will freely admit that I am not a big reader of true crime books.  However, I managed to devour The Real Lolita and was thoroughly captivated by the literary detective work that was clearly undertaken to bring to life the poignant story of Sally Horner.  A stupendous read that will make you look at Nabokov’s Lolita in a very different light.

Honourable mentions also go to Val McDermid’s Broken Ground (Little, Brown), The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson (Penguin) The Syndicate by Guy Bolton (Oneworld Publishers) Robicheaux by James Lee Burke (Orion) and Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza (Quercus)

Thursday 27 December 2018

Books to Look Forward to from Bloomsbury Publishing

January 2019

The Flower Girls is by Alice-Clark Platts.  Three children went out to play, only two came back. The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose. One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity. Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing. And the Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again...

February 2019

A journalist must follow the clues, no matter how far that takes her. Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, no matter what cost emotionally. Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man, whose death has left his fiancee and family devastated. Casey's determined hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St-Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind.  To The Lions is by Holly Watt.

March 2019

The Road to Granchester by James Runcie is the captivating prequel to the treasured Grantchester series follows the life, loves and losses of a young Sidney Chambers in post-war London It is 1938, and eighteen-year-old Sidney Chambers is dancing the quickstep with Amanda Kendall at her brother Robert's birthday party at the Caledonian Club. No one can believe, on this golden evening, that there could ever be another war. Returning to London seven years later, Sidney has gained a Military Cross, and lost his best friend on the battlefields of Italy. The carefree youth that he and his friends were promised has been blown apart, just like the rest of the world - and Sidney, carrying a terrible, secret guilt, must decide what to do with the rest of his life. But he has heard a call: constant, though quiet, and growing ever more persistent. To the incredulity of his family and the derision of his friends - the irrepressible actor Freddie, and the beautiful, spiky Amanda - Sidney must now negotiate his path to God: the course of which, much like true love, never runs smooth. 

The thrilling true story of Richard Sorge - the man John le Carre called `the spy to end spies', and whose actions turned the tide of the Second World War Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility. A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist - and the Soviet Union's most formidable spy. Like many great spies, Sorge was an effortless seducer, combining charm with ruthless manipulation. He did not have to go undercover to find out closely guarded state secrets - his victims willingly shared them. As a foreign correspondent, he infiltrated and influenced the highest echelons of German, Chinese and Japanese society in the years leading up to and including the Second World War. His intelligence regarding Operation Barbarossa and Japanese intentions not to invade Siberia in 1941 proved pivotal to the Soviet counteroffensive in the Battle of Moscow, which in turn determined the outcome of the war. Never before has Sorge's story been told from the Russian side as well as the German and Japanese.  An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent is by Owen Matthews.

April 2019

Impossible Causes is by Julie Mayhew. Four elements. Four seasons. Four points on the compass. Four teenage girls. And one body. Black-haired, pure islander, Britta. The alpha female of the so-called Eldest Girls. 'Half-blood' Jade-Marie, her missionary father long drowned. Blonde, angelic looking Anna - the moral compass of the trio. And then red-headed Viola. Viola, the newcomer to the island, escaping tragedy and desperate to belong. Viola, who turns three girls into four and completes the set. Viola, who finds the man's body, lying in the stone circle. Viola, who has watched and waited for her opportunity to become one of the inner circle, whatever it takes. In Julie Mayhew's mesmerising and compelling thriller, a remote and deeply religious island with a history of paganism is riven when a man is found dead. As rumours spread and tensions rise, and fog descends, sealing the island off from the mainland, the four teenage girls of Lark Island find themselves accused of witchcraft - and murder.

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps is by Ursula Buchan.  John Buchan's name is known across the world for The Thirty-Nine Steps. In the past one hundred years the classic thriller has never been out of print and has inspired numerous adaptations for film, television, radio and stage, beginning with the celebrated version by Alfred Hitchcock. Yet there was vastly more to `JB'. He wrote more than a hundred books, fiction and non-fiction and about a thousand articles for newspapers and magazines. He was a scholar, antiquarian, barrister, colonial administrator, journal editor, literary critic, publisher, war correspondent, director of wartime propaganda, member of parliament and imperial proconsul - given a state funeral when he died, a deeply admired and loved Governor-General of Canada. His teenage years in Glasgow's Gorbals, where his father was the Free Church minister, contributed to his ease with shepherds and ambassadors, fur-trappers and prime ministers. His improbable marriage to a member of the aristocratic Grosvenor family means that this account of his life contains, at its heart, an enduring love story.

May 2019

It's been a year since Leo Stanhope lost the woman he loved, and came closing to losing his own life. Now, more than ever, he is determined to keep his head down and stay safe, without risking those he holds dear. But Leo's hopes for peace and security are shattered when the police unexpectedly arrive at his lodgings: a woman has been found murdered at a club for anarchists, and Leo's address is in her purse. When Leo is taken to the club by the police, he is shocked to discover there a man from his past, a man who knows Leo's birth identity. And if Leo does not provide him with an alibi for the night of the woman's killing, he is going to share this information with the authorities. If Leo's true identity is unmasked, he will be thrown into an asylum, but if he lies... will he be protecting a murderer?  The Anarchists’ Club is by Alex Reeve.

Monday 24 December 2018

Books to Look Forward to from Atlantic Books and Corvus

January 2019

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...  My Sister the Serial Killer is by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

For the Hell Of It is by Phil Rickman.  The River Wye, according to local folklore, takes a life every year. But in the lower Wye Valley something truly evil is stirring and the locals can sense it.  TV star Arlo Ripley seeks solace in a church at the water's edge. But a famous face always attracts attention and if he thinks he can hide his failings, he couldn't be more wrong. Up river, an ambitious writer thinks she's uncovering Wordsworth's stranger secrets while an urban career-criminal, newly out of prison, assures a sceptical DI Frannie Bliss that he's left his old life behind to find an unlikely pastoral peace.  Enter diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins. As she wades into the murky depths, Merrily discovers that the darkest and most disturbing evil doesn't always involve murder...

February 2019

Michael lost his wife in a terrorist attack on a London train. Since then, he has been seeing a therapist to help him come to terms with his grief - and his anger. He can't get over the fact that the man he holds responsible has seemingly got away scot-free. He doesn't blame the bombers, who he considers only as the logical conclusion to a long chain of events. No, to Michael's mind, the ultimate cause is the politician whose cynical policies have had such deadly impact abroad. His therapist suggests that he write his feelings down to help him forgive and move on, but as a retired headteacher, Michael believes that for every crime there should be a fitting punishment - and so in the pages of his diary he begins to set out the case for, and set about committing, murder.  Waltzing through the darkling journal of a brilliant mind put to serious misuse.  Kill [Redacted] is by Anthony Good.

Gallowstree Lane is by Kate London.  Please don't let me die. Please don't. When a teenage boy steps out of the shadows of Gallowstree Lane and asks a passer-by for help, it's already too late. His life is bleeding out on the London street.  The murder threatens to derail Operation Perseus, a cover police investigation into the Eardsley Bluds, an organised criminal network. Detective Kieran Shaw can't and won't allow that to happen. But fifteen-year-old Ryan has other ideas. He's witnessed the death of his best friend, and now he wants someone to pay...  As loyalties collide, a chain of events is triggered that threatens everyone with a connection to Gallowstree Lane.

March 2019

A seventeen-year-old girl has disappeared after a fight with her boyfriend that was interrupted by armed men, leaving the boyfriend on life support and the girl an apparent kidnap victim. It's a common occurrence in the region-prime narco territory-but the girl's parents are rich and powerful, and determined to find their daughter at any cost. When they call upon Carlos Trevino, he tracks the missing heiress north to the town of La Eternidad, on the Gulf of Mexico not far from the U.S. border-all while constantly attempting to evade detection by La Eternidad's chief of police, Commander Margarito Gonzalez, who is in the pockets of the cartels and has a score to settle with Trevino. Don’t Send Flowers is by Martin Solares.

April 2019

The Feral Detective is by Jonathan Lethem.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She's looking for her friend's missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist - a laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer - to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble - caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe's trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but it was never supposed to be dangerous...

May 2019

'If you're reading this, I'm dead.'  Rejected by her family and plagued by insomnia, Rose Shaw is on the brink. But one dark evening she collides with a man running through the streets, who quickly vanishes. The only sign he ever existed - a journal dropped at Rose's feet.  Catapulted into a dark world of fear and obsession, she begins to dedicate her sleepless nights to discovering what happened to Finn Matthews, the mysterious author of the journal. Why was he convinced someone wanted to kill him? And why, in the midst of a string of murders, won't the police investigate his disappearance?  Rose is determined to uncover the truth. But she has no idea what the truth will cost her...  Night by Night is by Jack Jordan

June 2019

An eerie old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that's now hers.  Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father.  Leaving London behind to settle her mother's estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by the half-sister she's never taken the time to get to know.  With the past threatening to swallow her whole, she can't escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her, or ignore how animals take care never to set foot within its garden.  And when Ailsa confronts the first night time intruder, she sees that the manor's careless rugged beauty could cost her everything...  Missing Years is by Lexie Elliott.

The Last House Guest is by Megan Miranda.  Her best friend is dead. Now everyone thinks she's a killer.  Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of - but that's just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.  Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable - until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can't help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie's brother Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they're saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before she's branded a killer.

Treason sleeps for no man...London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London's lawless Bankside. But, when the queen's spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.  With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics. As their own lives become increasingly at risk, they find themselves confronting the greatest treason of all: the spectre of a bloody war between the faiths...  The Serpent’s Mark is by S W Perry.