Elizabeth's reign is reaching its winter and England's old adversaries are fading. But in a world on the brink of change, showing any weakness can be fatal. 1598. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy for Robert Cecil, has brought his wife and their child home from exile. But he has returned to a dangerous world. Two old enemies are approaching their final reckoning. England and Spain are exhausted by war. In London, Elizabeth is entering the twilight of her reign. In Madrid, King Philip of Spain is dying. Perhaps now is the time for one last throw of the dice.
London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London's lawless Bankside. But when the queen's spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself. With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern Bianca Merton again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics.
London, 1593. Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby – reluctant spy and maverick physician – and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot.... Robert Cecil, the Queen’s spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer.
LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I's control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country's fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain. When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.
London, 1594. The queen's physician has been executed for treason and conspiracy theories flood the streets. When Nicholas Shelby, unorthodox physician and unwilling associate of spymaster Robert Cecil, is accused of being part of the plot, he and his new wife, Bianca, must flee for their lives. With agents of the Crown on their tail, they make for Padua, following the ancient pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena. But the pursuing English aren't the only threat Nicholas and Bianca face.