Putnam, March 2003, 24.95, 400 pp.
In 1609 London, King James I wants peace with Spain while his son and heir Prince Henry, a staunch anti-papist wants England freed of Catholics. After helping the Dutch fight the Spanish in the Low Countries, Ned Warriner returns to England to see the now married Kate Pelham, the only woman he ever loved. During his first week back in the country, he wins a letter in a dice game that he later finds out is written by the dead alchemist Edward Dee.
The letter is a formula to create the Philosopher's Stone, which many people believe will turn any substance into gold. Whomever Ned talks to about the letter winds up murdered by a group of men who have the protection of someone powerful. Ned tries, for reasons unknown even to him, to create the Philosopher's Stone. He also deals with enemies who want nothing more than to see him dead for the knowledge he has in his possession about plots, gun shipments and gold making its way into the prince's coffers.
Cross Caleb Carr's THE ALIENIST with any work of Charles Dickens and one will have a feel for the historical mystery AURIEL RISING. The protagonist is a good man who finds himself in dangerous situations but is willing to pursue that course even though it might mean his life or his freedom. Elizabeth Redfern captures the mood of England less than a decade after the death of Elizabeth I adding background depth to a one-of-a-kind fascinating reading experience.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner