Thanks to author Rory Clements' clever plot and wonderful characters, I have been on a 16th century adventure with William Shakespeare's brother John. He is an intelligencer for Queen Elizabeth I in a department that functions much like an early CIA. Not everyone is impressed but he always proves that his efforts are worthwhile.
This story involves a plot to assassinate the queen, a plot that is hatched partly in a Jesuit college in Spain and also involves Roman Catholic cells in England. Not only Shakespeare but also his children are in grave danger which makes him vulnerable. He is a widower with two beloved daughters and a teenage son, and he is also responsible for their caretakers and his "sidekick's" wife and child. The sidekick is Boltfoot Cooper, a crippled man who would gladly die for his boss, but he is vulnerable as well now that he has a wife and little son. Thankfully he's resourceful and smart.
We learn about a kind of doctor people seek out for all types of maladies. Jane Cooper visits him without her husband's knowledge because her son is ill and Dr. Forman saves the boy. He also gives her something to help her have a second child. He deals in potions, a little psychology, real injuries and diseases, and isn't averse to a little romp in bed with female patients if the opportunity arises.
We learn too about exorcisms, disgusting conditions in prisons, torture, and executions. Although disgusting, this isn't told in a way that would deny the pleasure of this book to the squeamish.
The plot, while a bit convoluted, is simply great fun to follow. Even Will Shakespeare makes an appearance in this one because theater people and costumes are involved. John Shakespeare is a character dear to my heart. With each volume of this series I like him even better.