Jim Reviews: The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez – Ann Swinfen

Here is another book I read over my vacation. The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez is another series by Ann Swinfen. Unlike the Booksellers Tales this one is set in Elizabethan London. Sadly it isn’t available in the NOBLE system but we can probably get it through ILL so just ask.

Christoval Alvarez has way more secrets than any teenager should. The biggest one is that he’s Jewish. Christoval escaped the Spanish Inquisition in 16 century Portugal with his father by the skin of his teeth. Now living in London they aren’t out of the woods. Being Jewish is as much a crime in Elizabethan England as it is in Portugal its just in London as long as you don’t say anything no one is going to come after you. Still Christoval and his father attend Protestant services in public while secretly attending a synagogue in the house of a fellow Jew.

During the day Christoval and his father work at a local hospital and generally try to keep their heads down. unfortunately that doesn’t work. Which is one of Christoval’s other secrets, he’s just been blackmailed into working for Sir Francis Walsingham’s spy service. Christoval has to help decrypt the secret messages passing between English and French Catholics agents in France and Mary Queen of Scots being held prisoner in England. These agents want to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, and put Mary, a Catholic, on the throne. That’s how it starts anyway. The farther in Christoval goes the more he’s asked to do and the more he gets pulled away from his real love which is medicine. All the while he has to avoid giving away all of his other secrets.

Like Swinfen’s other stories this one is hyper historically accurate. She spends a lot of time drawing the world of Elizabethan London which is a real joy. Unlike the Bookseller’s Tale the plot this book is a little more key. She does a great job of getting at the unseemly nature of espionage in the 15th century. Agents are mostly in it for the money and the powers that be are trying to entrap the people they are spying on. It makes for a great story for historical fiction lovers.