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Editorial Reviews

Long before James Bond, England had a real-life spymaster in Sir Francis Walsingham. John Cooper compiled this thorough depiction of the man and his time. As an agent for Elizabeth, Sir Francis looked for Catholic uprisings at home and abroad. Dedicated to protect her at all costs, he became a master cryptographer and an expert at turning his enemies into double agents. This exciting, real-life story of intrigue is performed by James Adams with gusto and class. Adams' voice is similar in quality to Alan Rickman’s, giving the impression that he’d be as comfortable delivering oration on the Shakespearian stage of Elizabeth’s time as delivering this engaging audiobook about her most trusted and daring agent.

Publisher's Summary

A captivating true story that chronicles the exploits of Sir Francis Walsingham - the first great English spymaster and the man who saved Elizabeth's regime and the country's independence. Elizabeth I came to the throne at a time of insecurity and unrest. Rivals threatened her reign; England was a Protestant island, isolated in a sea of Catholic countries. Spain plotted an invasion, but Elizabeth's Secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham, was prepared to do whatever it took to protect her. He ran a network of agents in England and Europe who provided him with information about invasions or assassination plots. He recruited likely young men and 'turned' others. He encouraged Elizabeth to make war against the Catholic Irish rebels, with extreme brutality, and oversaw the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. The Queen's Agent is a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England's history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state.

©2012 John Cooper (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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The Power Behind the Throne

Much has been written of Sir Francis Walsingham, both as a hero to the realm and as a Machiavellian puppet master. As with anything in history, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, and this book does a fine job of navigating the waters of statecraft and espionage that were virtually uncharted at the time. John Cooper paints a nuanced picture of Elizabethan England, explaining how it developed to what we know it to be and what particular threats were faced at the time, and then maps out exactly what Walsingham felt he had to do and why. The end result is that we get a complex look at something that's usually painted as two-dimensional, and Walsingham himself comes across as both hero and villain within the subtext of his era. It's fascinating to see how this compares to other spy/torture setups across other times and places in history as well as how the ramifications continue to affect our modern world.

Champions of Elizabeth may have problems with the notion that the events and attitudes described in this book make the queen look weaker than modern perception might paint her otherwise. I think that assessment is to be expected considering Walsingham's operating procedure was that he only had to be wrong once for Elizabeth to be assassinated, whereas the outside forces had many opportunities to plan and attempt. Personally, I think this fits perfectly with my own understanding of how flighty and prone to tantrums Elizabeth could be at times, which is one of the aspects Walsingham had to work around when positioning his network. But that's just my perception. Regardless of how you want to perceive the queen, the fact remains, she had enemies a-plenty, both within and without, both religious and secular. To protect her was a Herculean job by any standard of the day, and for me it's a treat to peel back the layers and see how it was handled. From the perspective of a post-9/11 world, it rings with familiar echoes.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Before there was Smiley,Bond, or Wild Bill

If you could sum up The Queen's Agent in three words, what would they be?

Sir Francis was devoted (to Queen Elizabeth I), driven (to protect her and England), and dedicated (to his Queen, his country, and his Reformed Christianity).

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Queen's Agent?

Sir Francis's exhaustive efforts to entrap Mary, Queen of Scots and to protect England from the Spanish Armada, despite his often ill health, Queen Elizabeth's frugality, and hesitation to strike against her fellow queen and cousin.

Which character – as performed by James Adams – was your favorite?

Duh! The subject of the biography.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The opening chapters described the horrific massacre of the French Huguenots. Sir Francis was in Paris at the time and witnessed the slaughter and fear of the French Protestants. His memory of this event coloured his subsequent actions.

Any additional comments?

James Adams narrated the book clearly. His voice conveyed the subtlest sarcasm and wit when appropriate. I would gladly listen to his narration again. There was a lot of information in the book - it is, perhaps, too "dense" to be an easy listen, but Mr Adam's narration, unlike some, did not lull the listener into a hypnotic fog.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating man

History out performs fiction in a narrative with just enough left unknown that the imagination goes wild with theories.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Different take on the Reign

There has been probably too much written about Elizabeth the First, but this is new information from a different perspective. It's not written in chronological order, but rather based on events. It certainly becomes obvious through this work how the Reformation shaped Europe and America. It's not a spy book full of intrigue but more a dissection of Tudor state craft.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This is alright.

Less a book about Walsingham and more a book about a time in which he lived. I was disappointed that I didn’t even get a sense of the rise of espionage. Still entertaining though.

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Little about espionage: Lots of mindless minutiae

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom. Lots of irrelevant details acting as filler. Every book has a part that is slow but, this was intolerable.

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An important person in an important time

If you're interested in this period in history this is a must read. The reign of Queen Elizabeth the 1st was one of those pivotal periods in history that influenced the development of Roman Catholicism and the Protestant reformation. Francis Walshingham was at the center of it all, particularly the execution of Mary Queen of Scott's. Much has been written about the Spanish Armada but little about this man who helped shape the future up this this day ,or the uncertain period when history could have taken a different path and the development of what many consider the first spy service.