This is the second story in the Spy Master series, and continues the story of Jack who works as a scribe at the court of Henry VIII, though he has also been recruited as a spy for Thomas Cromwell. Jack is an enterprising lad and when asked by Cromwell to find out who has been stealing from members of the court, finds a secret passage which leads him to unmask the culprit as the King! But letting the King know without telling Cromwell is a bit of a problem so Jack makes up a riddle which amuses the King, enabling Jack to win a prize of money. Jack is aware that there is something much deeper going on and Cromwell entrusts him with solving this as well. This is a considerable level up in the spying game, and Jack finds Miles the King’s Music master tortured and dying, uttering the word Babbage at the last. Jack, helped by Cat, the seamstress, follows the trail, unravels the code to find the message sent to Cromwell from Spain, and nearly gets another spy killed. All ends well however, ready for the next story.
This is a well written and pacey historical romp, imparting enough detail to make it different from a modern adventure story. Jack is an attractive character, aided and abetted by Cat who always has the right tool to help out! The cover is a little more scary than the story within, and it is intriguing that this story is written by two people – it does feel quite seamless however!