This week, Michael Popple examines an impressive historical fiction debut.
The Angel’s Mark by S. W. Perry
London, 1590: In the last days of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, young doctor Nicholas Shelby comes across the body of a small boy in his anatomy class with strange wounds in his leg. When Nicholas encounters another dead body with similar marks floating in the river, he realises that a killer is walking the streets of London. However, in a city concerned more with the hunt for heretics and Catholic spies, Nicholas must undertake the investigation himself, aided by the mysterious tavern keeper Bianca. But with plots and conspiracies surrounding them, Nicholas and Bianca find themselves in danger not just from the killer, but from the sinister Robert Cecil.
This is the first book from Perry, a bright new talent in the historical fiction genre. The overall plot of The Angel’s Mark is a powerful combination of the hunt for a disturbed killer, the protagonist’s tragic tale and political and religious intrigue. It is told from several points of view and the various story elements combine into an engaging overall narrative, which expands on the pasts of each of the main characters. The central mystery is well-concocted and captivating, containing several surprising twists, and is a highlight of this book.
Perry makes full use of the dreary London setting and expertly captures the paranoia and suspicion that infected the country during the Elizabethan era. The story takes the characters to some of the bleakest places in London, which serve as the perfect backdrop to this dark mystery. At the same time, the book provides a deep look at some of the political, medical, social and religious ideals of the time that will appeal to history buffs.
Overall, this is an excellent debut from Perry, and readers will really enjoy this superb mystery and intriguing examination of London during a darker period of history.