Title: Traitor (A John Shakespeare Mystery)
Author: Rory Clements
Genre: Adult, Historical Mystery
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins
Event organized by: Literati Author Services, Inc.
SynopsisAward-winning historical crime series features William Shakespeare’s older brother, John, as an Elizabethan ‘Intelligencer’ who is tasked with taking down villains who threaten the Queen. The Elizabethan navy has a secret weapon: an optical instrument so powerful it gives England unassailable superiority at sea. Spain will stop at nothing to steal it and seize the two men who understand its secrets – its operative William Ivory, known as the ‘Queen’s Eye’, and its inventor, the maverick magician Dr Dee. With a second Armada threatened, intelligencer John Shakespeare is sent north to escort Dr Dee to safety. But his mission is far from straightforward. Dee’s host, the Earl of Derby, cousin to Elizabeth, is dying in agony, apparently poisoned. Who wants him dead and why? What lies behind the lynching of the recusant priest Father Matthew Lamb? And what exactly is the connection between these events and the mysterious and beautiful Lady Eliska? While Shakespeare attempts to untangle a plot that points to treachery at the very highest reaches of government, he also faces serious accusations far closer to home. With so much at stake, must he choose between family and his duty to Queen and country? Moving from the Catholic heartlands of Lancashire to a vagabond camp in the heart of England, and from the deck of Admiral Frobisher’s flagship off the Brittany coast to the secret meetings of Elizabeth’s closest associates, Traitor is award-winning writer Rory Clements’ most intriguing and compelling novel to date.
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William Ivory tossed his cards across the table and
picked up the coins. Three shillings, a sixpence, two
farthings. He was aware of the resentful glares of the other
players, but did not acknowledge them. He had all their money
now; there was no point in staying. Without a word of farewell,
he thrust the coins into his jerkin pocket, already bulging
from the rest of his winnings, and strode to the doorway. It had
been a long night and the tavern was heavy with the stench of
smoke and ale.
At the doorway, he stopped, surprised by the glare of the
dawn sun. He took a deep breath of the fresh air. As his eyes
adjusted to the light, he looked about him. He resisted the
temptation to pat the side of his dun-coloured jerkin where
the perspective glass was secreted, tied hard against his ribs
with leather straps. The street was busy, but his keen eyes told
him no one was watching him.
The alehouse stood in a narrow alley close to Portsmouth
docks. It was wedged between a broad-fronted ship-chandler’s
shop with sail lofts on one side and, on the other, a noisy
whorehouse where mariners paid for stale flesh with the spoils
of their long months at sea. Ivory walked to his own house, in
the next street. He lived alone, close to the bustle and noise
of the dockyard. It gave him the anonymity he needed and the
gaming houses he craved. He took out a heavy iron key to open
the door, then changed his mind. He would eat before sleeping.
It was a cool morning, braced by a breeze blowing in from
the Channel. He should have seen the watcher. At sea, he
could spot a Spanish ship on the horizon hours before other
men, yet here on land his senses failed him. He did not detect
the presence of a predator ten paces away, nor did he see the
pistol he held in the capacious folds of his cloak.
Ivory drew on a long, ornately carved pipe, filled with rich
tobacco. He had acquired the pipe from natives on the coast of
La Florida back in ’86, in a trade for a common English knife.
He exhaled a thin ribbon of smoke, which was instantly gone
on the wind. With a last look about him, he stepped back out
into the street and headed down towards the quayside to buy
herring and bread. A man in his mid-thirties, he wore long
whiskers and combed his straggling grey-black hair forward
across his brow. He looked what he was: a man of the sea. With
his lean chest, his weather-lined hands and salt-engrained
cheeks, there was little to pick him out from all the others in
this seafaring town. His gait was rolling like all the rest of
them: bodies that could never quite forget the pitch and heave
of the ocean swell. Only the precise sparkle of his luminous,
cornflower-blue eyes set him apart.
All around him there was noise – traders calling wares,
seamen singing shanties as they hauled at cables, gulls cawing
as they swooped for manavilins of fish, whores and gossips
screaming oaths at each other, idlers laughing. Who could hear
a heartbeat or a footfall above such a din?
The man with the wheel-lock pistol shuffled forward with the
crowd, protected by it. He was unremarkable and stocky,
totally enveloped in a cloak that billowed about him like a topgallant
sail and cowled his face. His weapon was loaded and
primed, ready to kill. Not quite yet, though, not here, not
now. Not with all these people about. His present name was
Janus Trayne, though that was not his real one. He had had
many names in his forty years.
He followed his quarry down to the quay where men from
a laden smack were hauling their catch ashore. He watched
Ivory bargain for a pair of fish, all the while puffing at his
strange pipe, then followed him to the baker where he bought
a two-pound loaf and some butter.
Janus Trayne was not from these parts. He was in the pay of
Spain, though not a native of that nation. His mission was to
prise something from William Ivory, some instrument that he
kept about his person at all times. Trayne did not understand
what it was, nor did he care. All that mattered to him was that
his masters would pay handsomely for it – two hundred ducats
He held back twenty yards from Ivory. His chance would
come soon enough.
From the baker’s, Ivory walked on a little further, to the cookhouse
that stood in the front bank of houses, close to the
harbour. The low sun was blanked out by the towering forecastle
of an armed merchantman, moored for refitting before
its next voyage. At the cookhouse window, he handed over his
two fish to a large, sweaty goodwife for scaling, gutting and
frying. She tried to engage him in conversation, but he ignored
her and walked down to the water’s edge to smoke his pipe and
Less than ten minutes later, the drab called to him and he
collected his food on a wide trencher, paying her a penny.
He settled down in a quiet spot at the waterside to eat. First he
laid his smouldering pipe beside him, then, with a sharp blade,
he cut into the tender flesh of the herring and released the
juices and savoury smells. He ate slowly, chewing at
hunks of bread and butter between bites of fish, taking his
time, enjoying the food and the perfect day.
The events of the next minute happened at bewildering
There was the hard touch of a hand on his left shoulder,
then the cold muzzle of a pistol at his right temple. Ivory
dropped the trencher from his lap and tried to scramble back
from the assailant.
‘Give me the instrument.’ The voice was low, growling. ‘You
know exactly what I want, Ivory.’
So they had come for him at last. But it was not him they
wanted, it was the glass.
‘I do not have it,’ he said, wrapping his arms around his
chest as he leant away from the pistol. ‘Not here—’
‘Then I will cut it from you.’
And suddenly there was the shadow of another man, bearing
down on them like a clawed demon. The demon’s talon-like
right hand pulled the assailant’s pistol down while the left
arm came past his neck, across his chest. Trayne might have
been strong, but the demon was quicker. Clenching a blade,
he thrust upwards into Trayne’s wrist. The man gasped with
shock and pain as the sharp steel sliced up through tendons
and flesh, into the very bone of his right arm. His gasp turned
to a deep howl. The wadding and ball rolled harmlessly from
the muzzle of his pistol. His finger pulled the trigger, igniting
powder with a flash and a loud report. Fire spat out and smoke
billowed, but there was no shot. The gun fell from his weakened
Ivory watched in fascinated horror. Within the space of a
few seconds a man had held a pistol to his head and now that
very man was squatting there with a knife protruding through
his wrist, a knife thrust into him by a second assailant.
The wounded man leapt to his feet with surprising agility.
Gritting his teeth, he wrenched the knife from his wrist. Blood
gushed forth, splattering across the harbour wall. He hesitated
a moment, instinctively shielding his face, then he ran, followed
by a trail of blood drops.
Ivory watched him go, mouth agape in astonishment. Then
he looked at the man who had saved him. It was a face he had
not seen in many years, not since they had sailed the world
together. A face he had had no interest in seeing again.
‘Boltfoot Cooper! What in the name of God are you doing
‘Saving your life, Mr Ivory. Saving your worthless, poxy life.’
About the Author
After a career in national newspapers, Rory Clements now lives in a seventeenth-century farmhouse in Norfolk and writes full time.
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