Betrayal has many guises...
London, 1593: Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby - reluctant spy and maverick physician - and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot...
Robert Cecil, the Queen's spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer. However, while Nicholas hunts for the truth across the seas, plague returns once more to London - ravaging the streets and threatening those dearest to him.
Can Bianca and Nicholas' budding relationship weather the threats of pestilence and conspiracy? And will Nicholas survive the dangers of his mission in a hostile city to return safely home?
Marrakech, Morocco. March 1593
In the moment before they caught him, Adolfo Sykes was dreaming of oranges.
It was an hour after sunset, the third night of the timethat some amongst the Moors called `Ushar, when the moon was almost full. In the gardens of the Koutoubia mosque the sellers of holy texts had packed away their books. The professional storytellers had departed, their audiences dispersed. From their high minarets the muezzins had called the city to the al-maghrib prayers, leaving the medina to the shadows and the scavenging dogs.
He loved the city at this time of night. He felt enfolded within its protective red walls. The cooling breeze from the Atlas Mountains filled the streets not with the scents of spices and human sweat, but with cleansing citrus.
Until he’d come to the land of the Moor, Adolfo Sykes had barely seen an orange, let alone tasted the succulent flesh. But now, after three prosperous years in Morocco, this agent of the Barbary Company of London – its founding stockholders the noble Earls of Warwick and Leicester – was ready to believe that paradise itself might smell like one vast orchard of orange trees.
He had almost reached his destination, the city hospital, the Bimaristan al-Mansur. Its high mud-brick walls were barely twenty paces ahead of him. And then this agreeable reverie was shattered in a single heartbeat.
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