For fans of C. J. Sansom and The Tudors.
Who is John Shakespeare?
Coming from a former British national newspaper journalist, Rory Clements (author of the Tom Wilde series), the John Shakespeare thrillers are historical crime novels.
Set during the Elizabethan era, the series follows John Shakespeare who is described as an “intrepid private detective and brother to a rising young playwright”.
As he investigates murder mysteries, John Shakespeare must navigate between powerful peoples, act as a spy, and deal with rising tensions all around him.
John Shakespeare Books in Order
At first, the novels of the John Shakespeare series were published in chronological order, but at one point, Rory Clements started writing stories set at a previous point in time. You’ll find the chronological reading order for the series at the end of the article.
John Shakespeare Series in Publication Order
- Martyr – 1587. England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her. Tensions in Elizabeth I’s government are at the breaking point. At the center of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham. When an intercept reveals a plot to assassinate England’s “sea dragon,” Francis Drake, Shakespeare is ordered to protect him. Busy fitting out his ships on land, Drake is frighteningly vulnerable. If he dies, England will be open to invasion.
- Revenger – 1592. England is at war with Spain, and Queen Elizabeth’s court is torn apart by brutal rivalries among ambitious young courtiers. The inimitable investigator John Shakespeare is dragged from retirement to work for the Earl of Essex, the queen’s favorite. His mission is to unravel the mystery behind the doomed Roanoke colony in North America, but instead, he uncovers a plot to kill the aging queen.
- Prince – England, 1593. Plague rages, famine is rife, and the city is in revolt. John Shakespeare investigates a series of murders rocking Elizabethan London. He follows the clues, which lead him from horseraces to brothels to an explosive encounter at sea. As he digs deeper, he discovers a plot that threatens not only the kingdom but everything he holds dear.
- Traitor – 1594. Under the threat of a second Spanish Armada, John Shakespeare is sent to Lancashire to guard over England’s secret weapon and its inventor, the maverick magician Dr. Dee. But nothing is so simple when the country is a hotbed of secret loyalties and civil unrest. During his mission, Shakespeare stumbles upon Catholic priests in hiding, a mysterious Bohemian seductress, and—of course—murder.
- The Heretics – 1595. John Shakespeare is approached by a condemned Jesuit priest with an unusual proposition: the Father is haunted by the memory of Thomasyn Jade, a teenage girl subjected to brutal exorcism rites a decade past. He wants Shakespeare to track her down and offer reparations for her treatment. As Shakespeare begins his investigation, a plot to assassinate the Queen is underway, and rumors of a papist conspiracy begin swirling from Seville. And when, one by one, Shakespeare’s trusted spies are horribly murdered, all clues seem to be linked to the mysterious Thomasyn Jade …
- The Man in the Snow (novella) – 1594. Just a few days before Christmas, a reluctant John Shakespeare answers a plea for help from Joshua Peace, Searcher of the Dead, but he has no idea the kind of menace he will face. A naked man has been found in a snowdrift, a wreath of holly crowning his head and a bullet in his back. As all around him prepare for the festive season, Shakespeare must unravel a complex plot of passion and treachery and confront a cold-blooded murderer who will not hesitate to kill again.
- The Queen’s Man – It is 1582, and the conflict between Protestants and Catholics threatens to tear the country in two. While Queen Elizabeth I holds the reins of power, there are those whose loyalty lies with her imprisoned cousin—Mary, Queen of Scots. On his first major mission for Sir Francis Walsingham, the young John Shakespeare is ordered to untangle a conspiracy to free the Stuart queen from Sheffield Castle.
- Holy Spy – 1586. In London’s smoky taverns, a conspiracy is brewing: a group of wealthy young Catholic dissidents plot to assassinate Elizabeth, free Mary Queen of Scots—and open England to Spanish invasion. But the conspirators have been infiltrated by Sir Francis Walsingham’s top intelligencer, John Shakespeare. Shakespeare, however, is torn: the woman he loves stands accused of murder.
John Shakespeare Series in Chronological Order
- The Queen’s Man
- Holy Spy
- The Heretics
- The Man in the Snow (novella)
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