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Sunday 28 November 2021

‘Shadow of the Axe’ by Peter Tonkin

Published by Sharpe Books,
4 November 2021.
ISBN: 979-8488-52649-5 (PB)

It is 1599 and seven horsemen recently returned from fighting in Ireland, among them Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, are galloping from London to see the Queen at Nonsuch Palace.

Meanwhile a Thomas Grey warns Robert Cecil, Secretary of State at Nonsuch about the Earl’s approach. He calls for his Intelligencer, Robert Poley who when told is suspicious that Essex plans to take the throne for himself. When he arrives the Earl is covered in mud but in his hurry he rushes to see the Queen.

Realising that her majesty is not yet dressed for the day, Poley lets Essex rush in to see her knowing that she will exact punishment on him for finding her in disarray. Essex is aghast to see this old hag surrounded by women. Too late he realises who she is. He is arrested and caged in York House.

So begins Cecil’s plans to infiltrate Poley into the Essex household, not only to find out all he can, but somehow bring about the Earl’s downfall, together with his followers. He is in a very precarious position though because the Earl’s own spies know of Poley’s close association with Robert Cecil. He has to be especially wary of the Bacon brothers, Sir Anthony and Sir Francis.

Poley however, has a fellow spy in the Essex household, a Lady Janet Percy, and thanks to her just manages to avoid his own death. However, one of Essex’s men, a Gelly Meyrick is determined to get rid of him somehow.

Meanwhile, the Queen allows Essex to return to his house but he is confined within. He mistakenly thinks he can raise the people up to support him against Cecil. He sincerely believes her counsellors are plotting to remove her and place the Infanta of Spain on the throne.  Little does he realise what a dreadful fate awaits him and how he misjudged the populace.

A really absorbing book full of treachery and treason with one faction plotting against the Earl of Essex and another against Robert Cecil.

Peter Tonkin is a master at getting down to the real nitty gritty of intriguing history and bringing it alive. I thoroughly recommend Shadow of The Axe for readers interested in Elizabethan times. I found it absorbing.

Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Peter Tonkin was born 1 January 1950 in Ulster, son of an RAF officer. He spent much of his youth travelling the world from one posting to another. He went to school at Portora Royal, Enniskillen and Palmer's, Grays. He sang, acted, and published poetry, winning the Jan Palac Memorial Prize in 1968. He studied English with Seamus Heaney at Queen's Belfast. His first novel, Killer, was published in 1978. His work has included the acclaimed "Mariner" series that have been critically compared with the best of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. He has also written a series of Elizabethan mysteries. Since retiring from teaching he has written mysteries set in Ancient Rome and more recently a series set in Greece.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors. 

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