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The Desperate Remedy
By Martin Stephen

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The Desperate Remedy

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The Desperate Remedy
Henry Gresham and the Gunpowder Plot
By Martin Stephen
Thorndike Large Print, (2003)
ISBN: 0-7862-5539-0
Genre: Historical Fiction - English

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - April 8, 2003

November 5th, 1605 was the day the conspirators planned to blow up the English House of Parliament. Their primary goal was to assassinate King James I, who was scheduled to be present. The cellar underneath the parliament building had been packed with gunpowder, and it was hoped that when the gun powered was lit, a massive explosion would occur, leveling the building and killing those inside. This would, they hoped, end the Protestant Regime of King James I and halt the anti-Catholic rhetoric and discrimination that was rife throughout England. They also hoped that by eliminating the Protestant parliamentarians, the Catholics would have a chance to take control of the reins of government.

The plan to blow up the parliament building was conceived by Robert Catesby and Guy Fawkes, and the events of November 5th become known as the Gunpowder Plot. (Some also call this event the Gunpowder Treason.) The plot failed, and Catesby and Fawkes, along with many of their co-conspirators, paid with their lives...

The tremulous events surrounding the Gunpowder Plot serves as a back drop for Martin Stephen's superbly written book, The Desperate Remedy. Although a work of fiction, this book is resplendent with accurate historical details and real personages. This book centers upon Henry Gresham, a respected courtier and spy. The book opens with the murder of Will Shadwell, one of Gresham's informers. As Gresham begins to investigate the death of "his" man, he discovers that the man carried a rosary - something not done in a land where being a Catholic could be seen as a capital offense.

Gresham's investigation is impeded when he is called upon to investigate the life of Sir Francis Bacon. He is assigned this task by Robert Cecil, the King's Chief Secretary who hopes that Gresham will discover something unsavory about Bacon - preferably in the realm of his sexual habits. While his investigation of Sir Bacon impedes his investigation of Shadwell's death, it does not stop it. As events transpire, Gresham is drawn into the machinations of the pro-Catholic factions and the developing plot to assassinate the King. Furthermore, Gresham discovers that several countries have their 'fingers' in the English plot, and that these various countries are each backing factions that they hope will benefit their international aspirations.

The Desperate Remedy is an excellent mystery that is well-written and fast paced. Gresham is a memorable 'detective' and how he solves the various mysteries that he is faced with is masterful. Throughout, Stephen paints a vivid picture of England during this period, and he doesn't pull any punches as he describes the sectarian divisions that abounded throughout the land. This book will be of interest to those who like to read mysteries and espionage thrillers, as well as those who like to read historical fiction.


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