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Tom gave a last, narrow-eyed frown at the letter’s signature — a false name, since no “Henry Fagot” resided with the French Ambassador, Monsieur de Castelnau at Salisbury Court. But then, the whole matter was a rigmarole: a mysterious informant writing his letters in bad French, and hiding them in an Italian fencing-master’s hat. Almost too fanciful to be true — and yet…

This was the third time, since returning from France late in May, that Tom had been summoned to the wood-panelled study, and set to read this fellow Fagot’s papers, and then made to unpick their meaning under his great cousin’s Sphinx-like scrutiny.

“So, Thomas?”

Tom took a good deep breath and straightened away from the windowsill. “So the French Ambassador’s servants are smuggling in Catholic books, but that is more an embarrassment than anything else,” he said — slow and considering. “Either this Henry Fagot is not very good at telling what is important, or he has a grudge against the Ambassador’s butler and cook…”

Publication day for Book Two of Tom Walsingham’s adventures in espionage and sleuthing is little more than a week away…

This time Tom is back in London – and, if he’s honest with himself, rather wondering why Sir Francis keeps him there. But before he can decide whether it’s a good or a bad thing for his prospects, strange rumours begin to arrive from Salisbury Court – the residence of the French King’s Ambassador.

Can the bizarre anonymous letters from the Embassy be a genuine leak? It would be enormously helpful at a time when Scotland is in even more turmoil than usual, and France’s stance on the matter alarmingly unclear… but can the informant be trusted? And why is Sir Francis’s own plant in the household claiming to have narrowly survived a murder attempt?

With his French connections and his (admittedly limited) sleuthing past, Tom is the perfect man for the job, and Sir Francis sends him to investigate, and… oh, the morass of intrigue and mayhem he’ll find!

Like Book One, this story also has its roots in historical truth: Sir Francis Walsingham did receive the mysterious letters. We still have them – written in questionable French, reporting a bewildering mix of vital information and gossip – and they were just to good to overlook. I simply had to work them into a riddle for Tom to solve. And do you know what is the best part of it? After nearly four centuries and a half, we don’t quite know the identity of the informant who signed himself “Henri Fagot”… There are theories, yes – but no certainty, and it was great fun to make up my own explanation for Tom to uncover.

If you want to find out, A Treasonous Path will be out on the 28th – but it is already up for preorder at a discounted price.