Book review: Treason by James Jackson

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November'¦

Wednesday, 19th October 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:04 pm
Treason byJames Jackson
Treason byJames Jackson

As Bonfire Night draws near, travel back in time with James Jackson’s gripping Gunpowder Plot thriller and be swept away by a murderous conspiracy that goes far beyond Guy Fawkes and his notorious bid to blow up the Palace of Westminster.

Jackson, author of bestselling historical novels Blood Rock and Pilgrim, shines a new and exciting light on one of the most momentous events in British history in an enthralling story packed with fascinating history, breathtaking action and a cast of captivating characters both real and fictional.

A military studies graduate and an adviser to film-maker Guy Ritchie, Jackson knows how to make the past come alive with verve and veracity, and this heart-pounding adventure is as revealing as it is compelling as we get up close to the daring, desperate men who tried to change the course of history.

It’s 1605 and England is awash with suspicion and fear. The Protestant King James I is on the throne but Spain still considers itself at war with England and there remain many restless Catholics on English soil eager to seize the crown.

The king’s spy chief and Secretary of State Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, is on the trail of a suspected conspiracy and he has just one clue… the name Guido Fawkes.

Only too aware that the Catholics are committed to a course of violence and treachery, Cecil recruits ruthless spy Christian Hardy – a man who ‘feels most alive when in proximity to death’ – to track down the conspirators before they wreak havoc on the country.

But Hardy has another more dangerous enemy than the plotters. He is a traitor codenamed Realm, an Englishman turned Spanish spy who is locked in a vicious ‘eternal game’ with Hardy and has sneaked back to his homeland on a mission of not just treason but personal revenge and self-enrichment.

As Robert Catesby, Fawkes and the rest of the plotters plan to blow up the Palace of Westminster, kidnap the king’s nine-year-old princess and place her on the throne instead, Hardy must uncover a web of deceit that runs from the cock-fighting pits of Shoe Lane and the tunnels beneath Southwark to the bad lands of Clerkenwell and a brutal reckoning in The Globe theatre.

And soon every threat will pale beside the deadly menace of Realm...

Immaculately researched and teeming with suspense, malice and menace, this is an impressive portrait of the suspicion and intrigue that stalked the early years of James I’s reign as well as a thrilling adventure story that will keep readers on their toes from first page to last.

Jackson introduces us to the major players of the Gunpowder Plot as well as providing some enlightening off-stage commentary from the great playwright himself William Shakespeare and his literary friend and rival Ben Jonson.

With its clever and complex plot, electrifying drama and fascinating real history, Treason is the perfect accompaniment to dark autumn nights.

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)