‘I swore an oath to heal, and instead I killed a man.’
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 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 sinister world of zealots, charlatans and dangerous fanatics...
Tilbury, England. Winter 1591
In the dusk of a desolate November evening an urchin in amud-stained and threadbare jerkin, long-since stolen from its rightful owner, hurries along the Thames foreshore beneath the grim ramparts of Tilbury Fort. The chill east windclaws at his puckered pale flesh. The hunger that has driven himdown to the narrowing band of shingle gnaws within him, as if it would tear itself out of his belly and go crawling off by itself in search of sustenance elsewhere. He is risking the tide becausehe knows a place where the oysters are plump and good. Onbalance, the strand is a safer route than striking inland in thegathering darkness.
His destination is a small channel that runs deep into the Essexshore, a wilderness of marsh and reed, of dead-end tracks that lead to creeks where you can drown in stinking mud before you can get to the Amen at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. He knows this because the wasteland is where he lives, on its southern fringe, in a ramshackle camp of vagabonds and peddlers, swelled by the destitute and the maimed from the wars in Holland and by discharged sailors from the queen’s fleet.
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‘The Serpent's Mark is an excellent evocation of Elizabethan England, with espionage, intricate conspiracies, strange medical practises and a gripping story. A rattling good read.’
‘The writing is of such a quality, the characters so engaging and the setting so persuasive that, only two books in, S.W. Perry's ingeniously plotted novels have become my favourite historical crime series.’
S. G. MacLean
‘A satisfyingly convoluted plot.’
The Sunday Times
‘No-one is better than S. W. Perry at leading us through the squalid streets of London in the sixteenth century.’
‘An excellent romp through an exciting era.’
‘The second in [Perry's] series about the Elizabethan doctor-cum-sleuth Nicholas Shelby... is as elegantly written as the first’