Elizabeth Redfern works literary alchemy in a novel that seamlessly incorporates the best of historical fiction, romance, and intrigue. Elizabeth Redfern's The Music of the Spheres was described by People as "a period brainteaser reminiscent of Caleb Carr's The Alienist." Her storytelling powers have also been compared to le Carre and Dickens, Thomas ...
Elizabeth Redfern works literary alchemy in a novel that seamlessly incorporates the best of historical fiction, romance, and intrigue. Elizabeth Redfern's The Music of the Spheres was described by People as "a period brainteaser reminiscent of Caleb Carr's The Alienist." Her storytelling powers have also been compared to le Carre and Dickens, Thomas Harris and lain Pears. Now she presents her new novel, set in 1609 London and centering on the furious quest to turn lead into gold. Since the night that young Ned Warriner set upon the guards escorting a Catholic prisoner to the Tower of London, allowing the accused spy to escape a brutal death, he has been in self-imposed exile, supporting himself as a mercenary soldier in the bloody battles between the Dutch and the Spanish. Now, in spite of the danger, he has returned to his native land, where the woman he left behind, his beloved Kate Revill, has married a Catholic-hunter. It is not a happy marriage, and Kate, like Ned, still yearns for the passion they once shared. But discovery would risk both their lives. Disreputable in appearance, and still wanted for his crime, Warriner makes his way about the city by penning poems or cheating cheaters in late-night pub games. But to win his freedom and safety for good, he must respond to an earl's blackmail and kill a member of the King's court. One thing, though, could change his dire circumstances: the letter he possesses, addressed to "Auriel," stuffed in the pages of a leatherbound book, won with dice and nearly forgotten. It may contain what many in London are buzzing about: the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, the method for making gold. Even if it is a hoax, it may change his destiny aswell, for those who know its whereabouts would gladly kill for it. Journeying to a fascinating era in history and painting an atmosphere rich in detail, Elizabeth Redfern brings us a masterful work of period suspense.
From Publishers Weekly
Richly atmospheric but overstuffed, this second historical thriller by Redfern (The Music of the Spheres) is set in London in 1609, where everyone, from imprisoned Sir Walter Raleigh to the lowliest wench, is clamoring for a letter apparently containing the recipe for the Philosopher's Stonea�"the elusive object that transforms matter into gold. The letter, addressed to someone named "Auriel," has fallen into the possession of Ned Warriner, a handsome lute player back in town after a two-year exile, hoping to see his childhood sweetheart, Kate, and the son he suspects is theirs. Kate is now unhappily married to Francis Pelham, a brutal hunter of Catholics who justifiably sees Ned as a threat to the Protestant King James. Fearing Pelham's inquisitorial zeal, Ned seeks the protection of the Earl of Northampton, a predatory homosexual who bribes his former prot??g?? into assassinating Prince Henry's corrupt chief clerk, John Lovett. To do the deed, Ned infiltrates the royal family's inner circle, mingling with the prince's scheming advisers and strangely powerful gardener while enduring the sexual attentions of Lovett's wife, Sarah, who is eager to implicate her husband in a potential coup. Meanwhile, Ned tries to decipher the mysterious letter by showing it to various Londoners schooled in alchemy; all are gruesomely murdered shortly thereafter. Only Robin Green, a young apprentice to a silversmith, eludes the murderers to attempt the recipe, but as the threat of violence looms larger, Ned isn't sure it's worth the effort. Redfern's strength is in recreating a morally corrupt world obsessed with the letter's mystical-sounding abstractions. But her tale is both relentlessly bleak and too busy, crowded with one-note villains who double-cross one another with perplexing frequency and heroes who are blank and oddly passive rather than intriguingly flawed.
Redfern turns back the clock again in this follow-up to The Music of the Spheres (2001) to bring another era of British history vividly to life. This time the setting is London in 1609, and the city is rife with hostility between Catholics and Protestants. Two years after he was involved in the escape of a Catholic prisoner, young Ned Warriner has returned to London to find that he still has many enemies, one of them now married to the love of his life, Kate. Even worse, he has stumbled upon a mysterious letter that appears to contain the secret for making gold but in reality contains the seeds of a plot that reaches to the highest levels of British royalty. With not only personal survival but national security at stake, Ned must decipher the contents while navigating the dangerous relationships between some of the city's most powerful men. Redfern makes a complicated web of allegiances and betrayals accessible and interesting, adding just the right dose of violence and romance to her well-researched tale.