Queen Elizabeth’s spymasters recruit an unlikely agent—the only Muslim in England—for an impossible mission in a mesmerizing novel from “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post) “Evokes flashes of Hilary Mantel, John le Carré and Graham Greene, but the wry, tricky plot that drives it is pure Arthur Phillips.”—The Wall Street Journal NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND THE WASHINGTON POST
The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth I is dying, childless. Her nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable occurs. The leading candidate is King James VI of Scotland, but there is a problem.
The queen’s spymasters—hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism—fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim to be a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family’s Catholicism, then forty years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?
It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England’s religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James’s soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.
Arthur Phillips returns with a unique and thrilling novel that will leave readers questioning the nature of truth at every turn.