The fourth in SW Perry’s Jackdaw series, The Heretic’s Mark is set in 1594, and the series lead Nicholas Shelby finds himself and most of what he believes in under threat.

Treason is afoot, and the Queen’s physician has been executed for it. No one knows why, but Shelby is also under suspicion. His unorthodox practises as a physician has meant that he has not escaped notice. As he flees London for Italy, seeking sanctuary he and his new wife Bianca find themselves in all types of bother. The novel goes along at quite a pace, with the historical nature of the book not getting in the flow of the action, or it’s strongly written and well-paced plot.

Shelby’s association with Robert Cecil, a well-known spymaster means that he is wanted all over. Making their way to Padua they are joined by Hella, a strange woman with stranger predictions.

Padua does not offer them the sanctuary that they need, only offering up further obstacles. As Hella’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange, the book takes a turn into more religious territory, which was true to the time and the world that SW Perry is writing about.

The book is both educational, and entertaining. There is both a detailed description of times, practices and people that seem strange to our modern sensibilities, but also a very well-drawn plot that follows seamlessly from the other three books, and has an ending that is complete in its way but also leaves some space for development.

Review by Ben Macnair

Published by Corvus; Main edition (1 April 2021)
Hardback, ISBN 978-1786499035