Sacred Treason

Sacred Treason

3.6 207
by James Forrester

View All Available Formats & Editions

"Vivid and dramatic."—The Guardian

"Arresting."—Daily Telegraph

Your God. Your Country. Your Kin.
Who Do You Betray?

1563: Anyone could be a suspect; any Catholic could be accused of plotting against the throne. Clarenceux keeps his head down and his religion quiet.

…  See more details below


"Vivid and dramatic."—The Guardian

"Arresting."—Daily Telegraph

Your God. Your Country. Your Kin.
Who Do You Betray?

1563: Anyone could be a suspect; any Catholic could be accused of plotting against the throne. Clarenceux keeps his head down and his religion quiet. But when a friend desperately pleads with Clarenceux to hide a manuscript for him, he is drawn into a web of treachery and conspiracy he may never untangle. Is there no refuge if your faith is your enemy?

Bestselling author Dr. Ian Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has crafted a chilling, brilliant story that re-imagines how the explosive mix of faith and fear can tear a country apart. Sacred Treason tells a thrilling story of murder, betrayal, and loyalty—and the power of the written word.

"An Elizabethan romp featuring a conspiracy, a secret manuscript, and whispers about Anne Boleyn."—Sunday Times

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Forrester (the pen name of historian Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England) brings a new trilogy to the Elizabethan shelves with this enjoyable first book. In 1563, Catholics are hunted by Queen Elizabeth’s men. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Armes is a Catholic herald in her majesty’s court and worries that his secret will be discovered. But one night an old friend, Henry Machyn, recklessly breaks curfew to ask Clarenceux to safeguard his volume of “seditious and heretical writings,” telling his friend that the “fate of two queens depends on” the project, 13 years in the making. If anything should happen, Machyn tells Clarenceux, he is to give the chronicle to the Knights of the Round Table. Clarenceux, ignorant of the Knights’ existence, now has in his possession a book that will put him in great peril unless he unravels the mystery at its heart. Forrester (Roots of Betrayal) vividly renders emotional scenes, and the book’s villains are sufficiently despicable to keep readers rooting for Clarenceux in this strong beginning to the trilogy. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A brilliant mystery adventure ... seamlessly incorporating known facts and people of the time with fictional aspects to progress the story ... A must read for historical fiction lovers." - Passages to the Past

"Reading Sacred Treason was like being completely immersed in the world of 16th Century England (without the smells). It was bracing and marvelous and compelling from beginning to end.
" - Book Lovers Inc.

"For twists and turns, codes and clues, Mr. Forrester beats Dan Brown, and when it comes to social detail, he is up there with Patricia Finney" - The Wall Street Journal

Library Journal
Forrester (pen name of historian Ian Mortimer, The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England) centers this cloak-and-dagger tale on William Harley, a gentleman who has achieved the high rank of Clarenceux King of Arms and whose acquaintances include Sir William Cecil. It is a more lowly acquaintance, though, who comes knocking on Clarenceux’s door on a stormy night in December 1563. Henry Machyn has come to Clarenceux because in addition to being an officer of the Queen, the herald is also a secret Catholic. Machyn presses on Clarenceux a chronicle that will prove to be the key to a conspiracy involving a group who call themselves the Knights of the Round Table. He then departs into the storm, never to be seen again for he has been watched by agents of Francis Walsingham. Clarenceux must rely on his wits, his 20-year-old soldiering skills, and the widow Machyn to survive this plot. Verdict Fans of Elizabethan fiction are legion, and they won’t be disappointed by the fierce action and plot twists of this historical thriller, the first volume in a new trilogy.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted

Read More

Product Details

Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Publication date:
Clarenceux Trilogy Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


Tuesday, December 7, 1563

It was a cold day for a killing. The Scotsman, Robert Urquhart, rubbed his hands and breathed on them as he waited in Threadneedle Street, in London. Watching the door to Merchant Taylors' Hall, he clutched each finger in turn, trying to keep them supple, his grip strong. He cursed the gray December skies. Only when two men appeared at the top of the steps, walking very slowly and deep in conversation, did he forget the chill in his bones. His victim, William Draper, was the one on the left-the jeweled gold collar gave him away.

He studied Draper. Narrow face, gray hair and beard, about sixty. Not tall but well dressed, in an expensive green velvet doublet with lace ruff and cuffs. Eyes like a fox. He looked selfish, judgemental-even a little bitter. You could see how he had made his money: with an ambition as cold and biting as this weather, and with as little remorse.

Urquhart watched Draper pull his cloak close and wait, standing on the bottom step, above the frozen mud. The man continued talking to his less well dressed companion. The carts and pedestrian traffic of the street passed in front of them, the snorting of the horses and the drivers' breath billowing in the cold morning air.

It could not be done here, Urquhart could see that. Not without risking his own arrest. That would be as bad as failure. Worse-for he knew her ladyship's identity. They would torture that information out of him. Arrest would simply require her ladyship to send another man, to kill him as well as Draper.

He walked to the end of the street and looked back casually. A servant led a chestnut palfrey around the corner from the yard and held it steady, offering the reins to Draper who mounted from the bottom step with surprising agility. Draper offered some final words to his companion from the saddle, then gestured good-bye with a wave of his hand and moved off.

Westward. He was going home.

Urquhart started forward, walking briskly. He felt for the knife in his belt, the dagger in his shirt sleeve, and the rounded butt of the long-barreled German wheel lock pistol inside the left breast of his doublet. He hoped he would not have to use it. The noise would bring all London running.

He followed his victim to his house in Basinghall Street. Four stories high and three bays wide, with armorial glass in the windows. He waited outside for some minutes then drew a deep breath and slowly exhaled, taking a moment to reflect on his mission.

He climbed the few steps to the door and knocked hard. A bald man in knee-length breeches answered.

"God speed you. An urgent message for the master."

The bald man noted the Scottish accent. "Another time, sir, you would be right heartily welcome. Alas, today my master has given instructions that he is not to be disturbed."

"He will see me. Tell him I come with a message from her ladyship. It is she who bids me seek his help."

"Regretfully, sir, I cannot disobey an order-"

"You are very dutiful, and that is to be commended, but I urge you, look to your Catholic conscience, and quickly. Her ladyship's business is a matter of life and death. Tell Mr. Draper I have traveled far to see him in his capacity as Sir Dagonet. He will understand."

The bald man paused, weighing up his visitor's appearance and demeanor. He looked at his shoes, dirty with the mud of the street. But the visitor seemed so confident; Mr. Draper might well be angry if he turned away an urgent communication brought by a Scotsman. "Wait here, if you please," he said, stepping backward into the shadows.

After several minutes he reappeared. "Mr. Draper will see you. This way."

Urquhart followed the servant along a dark passageway, through a high hall, and past a pair of large wooden benches piled with bright silk cushions. He noticed a gilt-framed portrait of the master of the house, and another of a stern-looking man in an old-fashioned breastplate and helmet-Draper's father, perhaps. There was a big tapestry of a town under siege at one end of the hall. Above the fireplace were two brightly painted plaster figures of black women in red skirts, their exotic paganism allowing the plasterer to bare their breasts shamelessly. Here was a whitewashed stone staircase. At the top, a picture of the Virgin. Finally they came to a wide wooden door.

"What is your name, sir?" asked the bald man over his shoulder.

"Thomas Fraser," Urquhart replied.

The servant knocked, lifted the latch, and pushed the door open. Urquhart crossed himself. He loosened his sleeve, felt the hilt of the dagger, and entered boldly.

The room was long, oak-paneled, and warm, and had an elaborate plaster ceiling. Two fireplaces in the far wall were alight, the blazing logs held in place by polished silverheaded firedogs.

The servant turned to his right and bowed. "Mr. Draper, this is the Scotch esquire who has come on behalf of her ladyship. His name is Thomas Fraser."

Draper was sitting behind a table at one end of the room, looking down at a piece of paper. Urquhart saw the same narrow face and gray beard he had seen outside the hall. He stepped forward and bowed respectfully. He heard the door shut behind him and the latch fall.

"You come from her ladyship?" the merchant said softly, looking up. There were tears in his eyes.

Suddenly Urquhart felt nervous, like a boy about to steal silver coins from his master's purse. Why the tears? Was Draper expecting him? But there was just one thing to do and the sooner it was done the better.

"Sir," he said, taking another two steps closer, so he was barely six feet from the table. "I come with an instruction from her ladyship." He reached for his dagger.

Suddenly a deep north country voice called out from behind him: "Hold fast! Move no further!"

Urquhart turned. Behind the door as it had opened had been a huge, bearded man dressed in a black doublet and cloak. His hair too was black and curled. In his early thirties, he had obviously seen action on more than one occasion. A livid red mark stretched from above his right eyebrow to his right ear. On his left hip he wore a silver-handled side-sword, and he was holding a pistol.

For one throb of his pulse, Urquhart was motionless. But in that moment he understood what had happened. Her ladyship had been betrayed. He did not know by whom, or how, but it left him in no doubt what he had to do. The instant he saw the scarred man move his pistol hand, he pulled the dagger from his sleeve and hurled it at the man's chest. The next instant he rushed toward him, one hand reaching out to grab the pistol and the other fumbling for the knife at his own belt.

When the gun went off, Urquhart was moving forward. And then, suddenly, he was on his side, the report echoing in his ears.

Only then did he feel the pain. It was as if his scream of agony was a sound formed within the severed nerves of his left thigh. There was a mess of blood and torn flesh. He could see splintered bone. As the sliced nerves and the sight of the shreds of bloody meat combined into a realization of one single, hideous truth, he gasped and raised his head, dizzy with the shock. The rip his dagger had made in the black cloak and shirt revealed a glint of a breastplate. The man was drawing his side-sword.

"You are too late," the north country voice declared. "Our messenger from Scotland came in the night. Mr. Walsingham knows."

Urquhart screamed again as the pain surged. He thumped the floor, unable to master the feeling. But it was not the wound that mattered-it was the failure. That was worse than the physical hurt. It did not matter that he was a dead man. What mattered was that his victim was still alive.

Eyes blurred with tears of shame, he thrust his hand inside his doublet for his own pistol. The scarred man was too close. But he forced his trembling hands to respond and drew back the wheel of the lock. Gasping, he twisted around, aimed at Draper's head, and pulled the trigger.

The noise of the gun was the last thing he heard. An instant later the blade of the side-sword flashed through his throat and lodged in the back of his neck, in the bone. And then he was suffocating and tumbling in a frothing sea of his own blood.

It was not an easy death to behold.

Read More

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A brilliant mystery adventure ... seamlessly incorporating known facts and people of the time with fictional aspects to progress the story ... A must read for historical fiction lovers." - Passages to the Past

"Reading Sacred Treason was like being completely immersed in the world of 16th Century England (without the smells). It was bracing and marvelous and compelling from beginning to end.
" - Book Lovers Inc.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Sacred Treason 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 206 reviews.
jrcrawdad More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this right from the start. I love a good book that gives you a look at what life was like in the past through the thoughts and actions of the characters. The suspense was constant and the characters very believable, no over the top heros, just normal people caught up in goverment intrigue. I would highly recommend this fun ride through ancient England.
TurningThePagesBlog More than 1 year ago
Sacred Treason was one of those novels that took me completely by surprise. I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this book and I really have to thank the publicist who contacted me offering me a spot on this books tour. This book had everything I wanted. I haven't read many historical mysteries especially not ones set in Tudor England so this one was a real treat for me. I can honestly say that I've never read a book like it and I'm super excited that I had the opportunity to read this. I really enjoyed the sense of adventure in this novel as Clarenceux solved the mystery behind the mysterious book that his friend Henry gave him. It was a non-stop ride for me and I found myself staying up late last night just to finish it because I couldn't help but want to see what would happen next. The writing was seemless and addictive each chapter left me wanting to find out more and more and I very much enjoyed the characters that James Forrester created in his fictional debut. I have to say that Clarenceux is one of my new favourite characters now because he himself was just as intriguing as the mystery surround the book in his possession. The way the book was set up was very much in the way of an adventure novel. I loved the historical details that were paid attention to and the descriptions of the times, the places and the people were wonderfully done. I loved the tension between Clareneux and his wicked counterparts who were up to no good it was thrilling to see how the whole novel played out and I'm glad I had a chance to read it. I really think that the author's historical background was a real asset to him in writing this novel. He's an author of non fiction titles under his real name Ian Mortimer which gives him that extra edge to pen this series. Like I said before I'm not really familiar with the historical mystery genre Sacred Treason has really sparked an interest in me to explore other books that are part of the genre and there's nothing I like more than to be introduced to a new genre so you can expect to see more reviews of books like this in the future. Since I am a fan of both historical fiction as well as mystery novels this bridge between both genres worked out well for me. I highly recommend this book to those who are fans of historical fiction and historical mysteries. If you love books set in Tudor England than I think this book might just be up your alley but if you're anything like me you may find yourself up to all hours of the night reading it. I for one am eagerly anticipating reading the other two books in this series and I'm hoping to do so soon. * I received a free copy of this book from the published via NetGalley in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own and I was not compensated in any way.
TudorTemper More than 1 year ago
As a fan of the CJ Sansom Shardlake series, I absolutely recommend this rip-roaring ride through Elizabethan England. Those familiar with Tudor history will recognize key players Cecil and Walsingham, and the sectarian strife that ruled 16th century England.  Forrester (Mortimer) does a masterful job showcasing the day-to-day life for every level of society in London of that time - what they ate, what they wore, how they lived. I can't wait for his "A Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England" is published, as well, I believe in May. Really great new character and Forrester nails the era perfectly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written story. I liked that the author got to the point of things without a lot of unecessary language and detail. Also I was drawn into the story and the more I read the more I wanted to know how the story would end. Good strong characters and easy to read flowing sentences. Great imagination by this writer. Five stars, well deserved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is worth reading. Dr. Ian Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has written a well-researched thriller that holds the interest with personalities and locations from 1563. It has intrigue, swordplay, and strong men and women fighting for their cause. I am very impressed with his detailed descriptions of the writings, the manuscripts, and the London of those times. I am not an expert, but I read voraciously, and this has some of the best writing skills that I have seen lately. It was not too long, not too short, and complete in itself, even though I understand it to be first in a trilogy. Read the author's notes at the end for interesting historical background.
CheckRaise01 More than 1 year ago
It is a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First let me say I am Catholic and I don't see why others would have a problem with this novel. I did not, perhaps because my Catholic University where I received my Bachelor's taught me to think for myself. I enjoyed this story immensely. It was intriguing and kept a good pace. I ended up reading it in two days as I HAD to find out how it ended. Anyone that enjoys novels dealing with the history of England's royals through the ages will delight in this tale set during the reign of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters are very well developed - even the ones that you want to hate. I loved the story line - following the clues reminded me a bit of the DaVinci Code, but the twists and turns of the story kept me interested!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book which was a free Friday selection. It is well written and filled with interesting characters. There is good action. While the story does continue in his next book, I like the fact that the story is complete and you don't have to read the next book to get closure with book one. If you enjoy historical fiction, i would recommend this book. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is because I don't have a burning desire to follow the story any further beyond book one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the bits of history and the fast pace
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I was finally able to get into the story, it was interesting. The final message I got from it is something I agree with. You'll have to read it to find out what the message is and if you agree with it or not. Enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I felt the author did a great job of mixing historical events with fiction. Im Catholic and I dont understand how this offensive to others to interfere with their assessment of the book. Leave the religion out of it...the time that the author wrote about was a very dangerous time spiritually and politically. He did a good job of portraying it. Well done and i enjoyed it more that it was free! Thanks B and N!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this kept me very interested and guessing. I love historical fictions and will look for more books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intrigue, honor, duty, characters to love and hate, a mystery chronicle, knights of the round table and so much more. Get this book, i was not disappointed.
Hypatia1 More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book - I am looking forward to the sequel. It made me think and had vivid descriptions that made the history come to life. I dont understand how people think it is anti-catholic - some of the most sympathetic characters are catholic. The book depicts a time of turmoil without taking a clear side. I appreciate that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a book I could sink my eyes into from the start!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago