Title: Low Treason
Author: Leonard Tourney
Series: Matthew and Joan Stock – #2
Publisher: Quartet Books
100 Pages a Day: Part One – Part Two
The Player’s Boy is Dead – Review
High treason they call it in the law. They would with more reason call it low treason, for a man must stoop low – indeed, must crawl upon his belly like a serpent – to practice it.
(Robert Cecil, p. 211)
Leonard Tourney’s Elizabethan mysteries featuring Matthew and Joan Stock of Chelmsford, England are slight books. Of the two I’ve read, whodunit has been fairly obvious from early in the book, the protagonists must provide proof so justice can be served.
In Low Treason, the Stocks’ son-in-law tell them his brother has gone missing. William Ingram has received a letter from Thomas’ employer, a jeweler in London, stating that Thomas has left for adventures on the sea.
Knowing this to be untrue, Matthew sets off to London to visit the jeweler and find out what’s really happened. Shortly after he leaves Chelmsford, Joan answers her door and finds a filthy and nearly naked Thomas asking for Matthew.
After sorting out that Thomas’ life has been threatened and he was nearly killed, Joan packs her bags and heads for London to apprise Matthew of the new situation.
Once they are both in London, it becomes obvious that the plot against Thomas is based on the possibility of his having overheard something which puts the jeweler’s plot against England with Spain in jeopardy. Because Matthew and Joan have also stumbled onto this information, their lives are in danger as well.
They are arrested on trumped up charges and sent to Newgate Prison, a horrible place which makes the American prison system seem fair and just in comparison. During service in the prison chapel, an explosion goes off setting the chapel on fire and allowing the Stocks to escape, despite the intentions of their enemy and his bomb.
Matthew has a very powerful friend, Sir Robert Cecil, chief minister and spymaster for Queen Elizabeth I. It is Cecil, working with Matthew and Joan, who puts plans in motion to catch the jeweler and prove he is plotting with Spain against England.
I enjoy reading these books as a break from some of the heavier fare in my stacks, but find Tourney’s pseudo-Elizabethan style uneven. and some of the plot devices annoyingly convenient. Nonetheless, Matthew and Joan are sweet, lovely characters who stay true to their convictions and their love for each other. They prove whodunit and go back to their simple lives in Chelmsford.