Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Act of Treason by Frank Dickens

Act of Treason
"... in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act ..." - George Orwell

Elizabethan England, post-Spanish Armada (1588>), saw the conflicts with Spain and in Ireland dragging on, the tax burden grew heavier, and the economy was affected by poor harvests and the cost of war; as prices rose, the standard of living fell. During this time, repression of Catholics intensified, and Elizabeth authorised commissions (1591) to interrogate and monitor Catholic householders. In order to maintain the illusion of peace and prosperity, Elizabeth increasingly relied on internal spies and propaganda; for her subjects, political ties and religion were often so impossible to separate that to remain loyal to one religion was considered tantamount to treason by the other.

It is 1598 - Elizabeth I sits on the throne of England. George Bullen, a professional scribe is employed to take down the story of the mysterious young man, Gareth Simmons, a former soldier in the service of the Duke of Norfolk. He has a story to relate - one that will shake the very foundations of the monarchy. It is a story that many will kill for in order to keep it from being revealed. Simmons has a price on his head, and so will those who aid him, including George Bullen.  To reveal this story is tantamount to high treason - " ... to maliciously wish, will or desire by words or writing ... bodily harm to be done to the Queen ..." (Act of 1571).

This is a gripping tale of intrigue and paranoia at the court of Elizabeth I as narrated both by George Bullen and Gareth Simmons (whose story, quite naturally, is told in flashbacks). I love a good conspiracy - especially those set in an historical context.

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