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Also known as A Bloody Mary Mystery series.
What is the Jack Blackjack series about?
Written by British author Michael Jecks (the Templar Series), the Jack Blackjack series is a historical murder mystery series set during the troubled reign of Queen Mary I, elder half-sister to the future Elizabeth I, (1553-1558).
The Bloody Mary series revolves around an amoral former cutpurse turned paid assassin named Jack Blackjack. He is a cowardly, lecherous, but likable amateur sleuth who’s never quite sure what’s going on as he jumps from one crisis to the next.
Despite that, he always manages to keep one step ahead of his many enemies, especially those who are trying to kill him.
Jack Blackjack Books in Order:
Every book in Michael Jecks’ Jack Blackjack Bloody Mary murder mystery series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Rebellion’s Message (2016) – January, 1554. Light-fingered Jack Blackjack knows he’s not going to have a good day when he wakes with a sore head next to a dead body in a tavern’s yard. That would be bad enough – but when he discovers what’s in the dead man’s purse, the one he’d stolen, his day is set to get much worse. The purse explains why the mysterious man with the broad-brimmed hat wants to catch him. But so does the Lord Chancellor, as does the enigmatic Henry. In fact, almost everyone seems to be after Jack Blackjack. If it weren’t for the rebel army marching on London determined to remove Queen Mary from her throne and install Lady Jane Grey in her place, Jack could leave the city – but with the bridge blocked and every gate manned, there’s no escape. Instead, he must try to work out who killed the man in the yard, and why. But it won’t be easy as the rebel army comes ever closer and the death toll mounts …
- A Murder Too Soon (2017) – June, 1554. Former cutpurse and now professional assassin Jack Blackjack has deep misgivings about his latest assignment. He has been despatched to the Palace of Woodstock, where Queen Mary’s half-sister Princess Elizabeth is being kept under close guard. Jack’s employer has reason to believe that a spy has been installed within the princess’s household, and Jack has been ordered to kill her. Jack has no choice but to agree. But he arrives at Woodstock to discover that a murder has already been committed.
- A Missed Murder (2018) – London, 1555. Queen Mary is newly married to Philip II of Spain – and not everyone is happy about the alliance. The kingdom is divided between those loyal to Catholic Mary and those who support her half-sister, Lady Elizabeth. Former cutpurse turned paid assassin Jack Blackjack has more immediate matters to worry about. Having been ordered to kill a man, he determines to save him instead. But Jack defies his spymaster at his peril … and even the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. When it appears that Jack has killed the wrong man, he reluctantly finds himself drawn into affairs of state, making new enemies wherever he turns. Can he survive long enough to put matters right?
- The Dead Don’t Wait (2019) – April, 1555. A priest has been stabbed to death in the village of St Botolph, to the east of the City of London, his body left to rot by the roadside – and Jack Blackjack stands accused of his murder. As well as clearing his name, Jack has his own reasons for wanting to find out who really killed the priest – but this is an investigation where nothing is as it seems. Was it a random attack by a desperate outlaw, or do the answers lie in the murdered priest’s past? As he questions those who knew the dead man, Jack is faced with a number of conflicting accounts – and it’s clear that not everyone can be telling him the whole truth.
- Death Comes Hot (2020) – London. May, 1556. Hal Westmecott, one of the city’s most feared executioners, reckons Jack Blackjack owes him a favor – and now he’s come to collect his dues. Hal has ordered Jack to track down his long-lost son and, although Jack believes he’s been set an impossible task, he’s in no position to refuse. But when Jack’s search draws him to the attention of a ruthless nobleman, a dead priest’s vengeful brother, and finally to a bloodstained body in a filthy lodging house, he comes to realize he is an unwitting pawn in a mesh of schemes dreamed up by the most powerful people in England. Just who is a friend, who is a foe – and will Jack escape with his life intact?
- The Moorland Murderers (2021) – July, 1556. En route to France and to escape from Queen Mary’s men, Jack Blackjack decides to spend the night at a Devon tavern, agrees to a game of dice – and ends up accused of murder. To make matters worse, the dead man turns out to have been the leader of the all-powerful miners who rule the surrounding moors – and they have no intention of waiting for the official court verdict to determine Jack’s guilt. But who would frame Jack for murder . . . and why? Alone and friendless in a lawless land of cut-throats, outlaws, and thieves, Jack realizes that the only way to clear his name – and save his skin – is to unmask the real killer. But knowing nothing of the local ways and customs, how is he to even begin?
- The Merchant Murderers (2022) – August, 1556. Jack Blackjack is on a simple mission: make it back home to his beloved London. It should be simple, right? Wrong. He’s made it as far as Exeter, but before he can secure a fresh steed in that hellish city, he’s faced with a dead priest, ruthless thieves, and a devious Dean who’s determined to see the back of Jack. That suits Jack just fine – he wants to leave! So when wealthy merchant Wolfe, offers passage to London via sea, Jack jumps at the chance . . . and unwittingly into further danger! With thieves, pirates, and potential murderers at every turn who can Jack trust? Will he uncover the truth behind the dead priest and missing merchant ships? But more importantly, will he ever make it home to London with his purse strings and limbs intact?
What should you read if you like the Jack Blackjack novels?
If you like reading the Jack Blackjack series, you may also be interested in Michael Jecks’ other series, The Last Templar Mysteries, and the Matthew Shardlake series for more XVIth century mysteries.