One evening in 1588, just weeks after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, two young men landed in secret on a beach in Norfolk, England. They were Jesuit priests, Englishmen, and their aim was to achieve by force of argument what the Armada had failed to do by force of arms: return England to the Catholic Church.
Eighteen years later their mission had been shattered by the actions of the Gunpowder Plotters -- a small group of terrorists who famously tried to destroy the Houses of Parliament -- for the Jesuits were accused of having designed "that most horrid and hellish conspiracy." In an unusual turn of events, the future of every Catholic they had hoped to save would soon come to depend on the silence of one Oxford carpenter, a man being tortured in the Tower of London for building priest holes, those bunkers in which the Catholic clergy hid from English authorities.
Using contemporary documents, Alice Hogge's brilliant new book pieces together a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between priests and government spies, as Queen Elizabeth and her ministers fought to defend the state, and English Catholics fought to defend their souls. It follows the priests -- God's Secret Agents -- from their schooling on the Continent, through their perilous return journeys and their lonely lives in hiding, to the scaffold, where a gruesome death awaited them. To their government they were traitors; to their fellow Catholics they were glorious martyrs. It was a distinction that the Gunpowder Plot would put to the test. Ultimately God's Secret Agents is the story of men who would die for their cause undone by men who would kill for it.
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Alice Hogge was educated at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. She lives in London. This is her first book.Review:
“Hogge’s absorbing narrative of the experience of [Catholic] underground life reads like a historical novel.” (The Guardian)
“Hogge deftly narrates the seething world of religious conflict in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England.” (Publishers Weekly)
“An illuminating look at an often overlooked period of church-state turmoil . . . Draws surprising parallels with events today.” (National Catholic Reporter)
“An exciting account of the Catholic resistance in England under Elizabeth.” (New Statesman)
“Compelling storytelling.” (The Observer)
“Alice Hogge’s vivid narrative culminates in a gripping account of the [Gunpowder] Plot and its disastrous denouement.” (Eamon Duffy, New York Review of Books)
“A well-researched, skillfully crafted book that evokes the physical as well as the intellectual world of Renaissance English Catholicism.” (Weekly Standard)
“A tense, taut, real-life political thriller.” (Booklist)
“[A] vivid and moving portrait of the Counterreformation in the Elizabethan age.” (Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator (A Book of the Year))
“Paints a vivid picture of the stresses of operating in secret, under false identities, in constant fear of betrayal.” (London Times)
“The final chapters make moving, even tragic reading.” (Evening Standard)
“Excellently researched and beautifully written.” (Financial Times)
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