Shadow of Treason, by Peter Tonkin

Natalie Morgan

The latest in the Queen Intelligencer series from the author of The Trojan Murders
Home » Book Reviews » Shadow of Treason, by Peter Tonkin

Shadow of Treason, the latest addition to Peter Tonkin’s The Queen’s Intelligencer series, offers a thrilling insight into the Protestant and Catholic divide during the reign of James I. A discord so deep that a fervent group of Catholics would assemble and attempt to reshape the country’s religious trajectory with a momentous assassination plan – but instead it resulted in one of history’s most notorious failures: the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

This novel follows spy-master Robert Poley, a central figure in The Queen’s Intelligencer series, but also introduces the Catholic masterminds behind the Gunpowder Plot; most notably, Robert Catesby and Guido Fawkes. Set between April 1603 and November 1605, Tonkin offers an intimate portrayal of the inner conflicts that faced these men on their quest for Catholic supremacy and the lengths Robert Poley and Lord Secretary Cecil had to take to stop them before their intentions were realised. Tonkin reveals the souls of the conspirators to the reader beautifully; enabling the reader to understand why the success of the Gunpowder Plot was of such spiritual importance to these men.

Shadow of Treason opens with a stark detail: Robert Catesby was a hunted man. From here, we learn of Catesby’s position as a Catholic recusant in Anglican England and his mission to command a resistance to the Protestant James I. Whilst Catesby concentrates on his deep hatred for the Parliament building; the birthplace of anti-Catholic legislation, he is thrown by a catastrophic explosion that leaves no trace of the area and people within its vicinity. It is in this devastation that Catesby crosses paths with a familiar face, spy-master Robert Poley.

It isn’t long before Catesby gathers an entourage of men to start concocting their explosive plan, including the legendary Guido Fawkes. Their plan is set, to tunnel directly beneath the House of Lords where they will deposit a large quantity of gunpowder for the unknowing victims above.

What follows is a gripping thriller that reveals the perspectives of both Robert Poley and Guido Fawkes as they both race against time to succeed in their objectives. Poley, after getting wind of a large amount of gunpowder making its way to the North of England, believes that the Catholics are planning to use this to their advantage, and so he must seek out the perpetrators. Fawkes, on the other hand, must conceal his masterly tunnel and gunpowder stash long enough for it to serve its purpose.

The end of the story is bittersweet; many know the fateful outcome for all those involved in the Gunpowder Plot, but due to Tonkin’s skilful writing, it is hard not to connect to the conspirators and their impassioned commitment to their cause.

Once again, Tonkin proves why he is recognised as a master storyteller; fast-paced action and highly detailed characters are instinctive to Tonkin’s work, and Shadow of Treason is no exception.