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by Rory Clements

Part of the John Shakespeare Series

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Crime / Mystery eBooks of the Month Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on Martyr

Martyr is the first in the acclaimed and bestselling John Shakespeare Elizabethan mystery series by Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award.

Book in The Rory Clements Series:

1. Martyr

2. Revenger

3. Prince

4. Traitor

5. The Heretics

6. The Queen's Man

7. Holy Spy

Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.


Martyr Synopsis

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 breaking point. At the eye 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. With Drake on land fitting out his ships, he is frighteningly vulnerable. If he dies, England will be open to invasion.

In a London rife with rumour, Shakespeare must decide which leads to follow, which to ignore. When a high-born young woman is found mutilated and murdered at an illicit printing house, it is political gunpowder - and he has no option but to investigate.

But why is Shakespeare shadowed at every turn by the brutal Richard Topcliffe, the blood-drenched priest-hunter who claims intimacy with Queen Elizabeth herself? What is Topcliffe's interest in a housemaid, whose baby has been stolen? And where do two fugitive Jesuit priests fit into the puzzle, one happy to die for God, the other to kill for Him?

From the splendour and intrigue of the royal court, to the sleek warships of Her Majesty's Navy and the teeming brothels of Southwark, Shakespeare soon learns that nothing is as it seems ...

The John Shakespeare series:

1. Martyr

2. Revenger

3. Prince

4. Traitor

5. The Heretics

6. The Queen's Man

124 copies of The Great Gatsby to mark the 124th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth!

124 copies of The Great Gatsby to mark the 124th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth!

Closing date: 25/10/2020

To celebrate the 124th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth we're working with No Exit Press to give away a whopping 124 copies of Fitzgerald's most popular title The Great Gatsby! This new edition of the classic includes a foreword by critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith, as well as an exclusive extract of his forthcoming novel, NICK, which imagines narrator Nick Carraway’s life before The Great Gatsby. This draw is open only for UK residents currently in the UK and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once. The draw closes on 25th October 2020. The winners will be notified as soon as possible.

Enter Now

Martyr Reader Reviews

  • Jodie Robson - 'Dark deeds and spymasters - an Elizabethan thriller...there are some gripping moments and loads of period atmosphere, which bodes well for the series.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Musk - 'An exciting read with a clever, sympathetic hero and a brutal, psychotic villain set in the turbulent sixteenth century.  I can't wait to read the other books in the series.' Read full review >
  • Nicola Lowes - 'The characters felt real and there were plenty of rogue villains to keep the intrigue going.  I would definitely recommend it.' Read full review >
  • Julie Wragg - 'An enthralling read of suspicion and danger in Elizabethan England.' Read full review >
  • Cleo Bannister - 'Life in Elizabethan era bought to the reader in Technicolor as Rory Clements paints a picture of the life, times and murder in this page-turner.' Read full review >
  • Maureen Evans - 'In a time of fear and torture our hero battles to uncover the identity of Francis Drake’s potential assassin. This deservedly award-winning author keeps up the tension right to the end.' Read full review >
  • Elisabeth Thomas - 'A gripping Elizabethan mystery...I really enjoyed this first John Shakespeare story and will definitely be reading the other books in the series.' Read full review >
  • Katie Young - 'An amazing novel full of twists that had me hooked and brought Elizabethan England to life.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Harper - 'An entertaining read which kept me guessing until the end.  I will definitely be following up with another John Shakespeare mystery in the future.' Read full review >
  • Paula Hall - 'One of those books you can't put down until it's finished!' Read full review >
  • Cathy Petersen - 'Great start to a series with religious tensions, murder and conspiracy in a wholly believable Elizabethan London.' Read full review >
  • Lindsey Whittle - 'Very strong on historical atmosphere and believable characters...this story mixes known facts and people with creative imaginings and immaculate research.' Read full review >
  • Annette Woolfson - 'I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable story and look forward to reading the future adventures of John Shakespeare.' Read full review >   
  • Lyn Barrett - 'Martyr, with its mix of real and fictional characters, is an impressive beginning to what must surely become a quintessential series for disciples of the genre.' Read full review >
  • Emilie Di Mario - 'Go back in time with John Shakespeare as he tramps through the cold, messy streets of London, encountering all manner of Londoners, searching for a murderer, and a hired assassin.' Read full review >
  • Magda North - 'I'm running against the grain in not being a fan of Martyr...It's well written and brings to life the dirt, brutishness and struggle to survive in sixteenth century London, but it left me a bit cold.' Read full review >

Martyr Press Reviews

'A colourful history lesson...leavened by exciting narrative twists'
The Sunday Telegraph

'The joy of this book is the way it interweaves commonly known history with the story. The atmosphere and attention to detail will commend this book to devotees of the period'

'An engrossing thriller'
Washington Post

'Beautifully done ... alive and tremendously engrossing'
Daily Telegraph

'Enjoyable, bloody and brutish'

'An excellent debut'
Publishers Weekly

'Captivates and carries one along through the strength of its plot and its intelligent main character'
Dallas Morning News

'Sharp and challenging, this book is missed at one's peril'
Oxford Times

'The novel wears its historical learning lightly, and Clements seasons it with romance and humour'
The Mail on Sunday

'Clements can be seen as doing for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's ... What's impressive in the latest is how much of Tudor society it crams in, from the court and Derby's estate to outlaws and the soldiers in its concluding scene'
Sunday Times

'There's plenty of thrills ... the multiple plot elements are well-handled ... there's much that's enjoyable and Clements' orchestration of the narrative is skillful'


'The best yet in Rory Clements magnificent series about John Shakespeare ... As always, the historical detail is fascinating and sometimes delightfully obscure ... another sumptuous feast that will leave you sated - but craving for the next helping!' Crimesquad


'I found this the best book in the series' Historical Novels Review

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781848540781
Publication date: 21/01/2010
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of John Murray General Publishing Division
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781848540781
Publication date: 21st January 2010
Author: Rory Clements
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of John Murray General Publishing Division
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 432 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Crime / Mystery, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction,
Categories: Historical mysteries,

About Rory Clements

Rory Clements is the bestselling author of the John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers. His six acclaimed novels, Martyr, Revenger, Prince, Traitor, The Heretics and The Queen's Man, follow Elizabeth's Intelligencer, John Shakespeare, brother to the playwright William, through the dark underworld of Tudor England as he unmasks the traitors and conspirators who plot against the Queen. The seventh John Shakespeare novel, Holy Spy, is due to be published in February 2015. Rory Clements won the Crime Writers' Association Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award in 2010 for Revenger, and has been shortlisted for CWA Awards for Martyr, Prince and The Heretics. ...

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