D. K. Wilson’s novel The Traitor’s Mark takes a small bit of historical uncertainty—the cause of the 1543 death of Henry VIII’s official portrait painter, Hans Holbein—and builds an engaging tale of what might have been. Thomas Treviot, a young goldsmith, is expecting a set of designs from Hans Holbein (who did such work in addition to painting portraits), but when these designs never materialize and Holbein’s apprentice is killed, Treviot finds himself trying to solve a crime that may involve religion and politics—both very dangerous, and overlapping, topics in Henry’s England.
Wilson is a well-known author in his native country, England, with several other novel series and many individual works of nonfiction in print. As a result, the Tudor England in which Treviot lives is not only interesting, but also an accurate portrayal of the time. The Traitor’s Mark is Wilson’s second Treviot novel, but the first of any of his novels to be published in the U.S.
One doesn’t need to know Tudor history to enjoy this novel, but the more one knows about Tudor history, the more one will appreciate Wilson’s attention to historical detail. Holbein fears the changing times in which he lives, noting “Even my old patron, Sir Thomas More, [has] taken to locking men up and having them tortured.” Rival factions of church officials and noblemen struggle to influence Henry VIII. The fates of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer and of any number of less distinguished individuals hang in the balance. The activities of individual churchmen are scrutinized for potential heresy, which in Henry’s England is also treason.
If you like historical mysteries, you’re going to enjoy The Traitor’s Mark. If you like historical mysteries and you know your Tudor history, you’re going to find this book unputdownable. I find myself hoping that more of Wilson’s novels will make it to this side of “the pond.”
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