Review of The Jesuit Letter by Dean Hamilton
Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com:
England 1575Ex-soldier turned play-actor Christopher Tyburn thought he had left bloodshed and violence behind him when he abandoned the war against the Spanish in Flanders, but fate has different and far bloodier plans waiting.The inn yards of London are closed due to plague and the Earl of Worcester's Men are on the road, touring the market-towns of the Midlands.When Tyburn accidentally intercepts a coded letter from a hidden Jesuit priest in Warwickshire, he is entangled in a murderous and deadly conspiracy. Stalked by unknown enemies, he must race to uncover the conspirators and hunt down the Jesuit to clear his name... or die a traitor's death.
Again, I issue what is becoming my standard apology for being late with this post. Rather than go into all the boring details, let’s just dive right in.
My review for today focuses on the novel The Jesuit Letter by Dean Hamilton. This one promised to be very much in the vein of a previous book that I reviewed a while back (and liked) called Sacred Treason by James Forrester.
Plot-wise, Mr. Hamilton’s novel measure up nicely and involves similar types of situations. Instead of William Harley, King of Arms, our main character is one Christopher Tyburn, otherwise known as Kit. His main occupation, and I mean that literally, is as a player. And when I say player, I don’t mean that he has a few girls on the side. I am guessing that it is an Elizabethan term for an actor.
Kit is out for a stroll one day while his company is playing in Stratford, yet that Stratford, when he comes upon a young Will Shakespeare being assaulted by some not so nice men. The men are after a letter that young Master Shakespeare carries. Against his better judgement, Kit retrieves Shakespeare’s letter while the later bolts only to find a longtime family friend dead at the same hands that assaulted him. Thus begins our story.
When Kit’s friend is later killed because he is suspected of having the same letter in his possession, Tyburn determines to find out why this letter is so important. To do that, he must borrow young Shakespeare from his father while the two put their heads together to try to figure out how they can stay alive.
The good points of this story are that it has plenty of action and great characters. Tyburn is not a perfect man thankfully but he does have some heroic qualities even if he does make his living by lying to people and pretending to be something that he is not. We get the impression that he is the reason for young Will’s later interest in the stage, though his impeccable Latin might also have something to do with it.
It is been a while since I last read a biography of Shakespeare so I really couldn’t remember how accurate this story is with what we know about the bard as a person. I think most of my information was about his adult life anyway.
The biggest negative was how the pages were organized. My e-book copy had references besides some of the dialogue so as to explain certain points to the reader. When you click on them you are taken to the notes section. However, when you want to go back to where you were, there’s no link to take you there. You are on your own. This was annoying. I hope that when this book comes out officially as e-book, the publisher will have fixed this problem but if not, beware.
The downside for me was, unlike Forrester’s novel, our main character is a less moral man. He has experienced his own version of PTSD and seems to be scared by it many years later. Also he has a job where he is considered only one step above a beggar in the hierarchy of things which I suppose accounts for his lack of manners at times (he likes to swear in both Dutch and English).
Because of this character trait there are scenes in the book that I skipped over due to sexual content that was a bit too explicit for me as well as the swearing which became more and more intense throughout the progress of the book. If you can overlook these things and you enjoy your Historical Fiction with a lot of intrigue, you just might enjoy this.