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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

The Jesuit Letter by Dean Hamilton

The Jesuit Letter - William Dean Hamilton

The Jesuit Letter is a historical adventure with a little something to captivate every reader. Through the protagonist, Christopher Tyburn, we are welcomed into the world of travelling players, though it is slowly revealed that there is much more to this mysterious, scarred man. Where else could an Elizabethan troupe perform than Stratford-upon-Avon, where we get to meet a young Will Shakespeare?

The mystery and action that begin right in the prologue never lets up in this quick-paced story. Our unfortunately named Tyburn first appears to be little more than the stereotypical player, drinking or gambling away his wages, but the deeper truths about him are not completely revealed until much later. He finds himself wrapped up in a plot that is rooted in the religious battles of the 16th century. Tyburn, comfortable not choosing sides in the Protestant versus Catholic debate, finds that he must decide where he stands if lives are to be saved.

I enjoyed the fact that this story revealed much of the lifestyles of the times without focusing on Queen Elizabeth herself. The 16th century is a fascinating era, but I do not enjoy reading about the revered & supposedly virgin queen, so this book was right up my alley. The author demonstrates thorough knowledge of his chosen setting with historical tidbits and slang sprinkled throughout the novel. I may be one of the few readers who would have appreciated fewer footnotes, but I loved the authenticity.

Those who know my reading habits will not be surprised that the romance portion of this novel was not my favorite element, but I did enjoy how it was used to develop Tyburn's character. The boy meets girl aspect of the book was second to many other relationships and events, including manipulation, betrayal, murder, spies, secret priests, hidden pasts, and so much more.

There is no need for me to point out that this novel also has a stunning cover. That is what first attracted me to it, and I am glad that I picked it up. I look forward to more from this author.