Tudor thriller together


Cityread London is celebrated in April every year and asks London's residents, workers and visitors to pick up a book – the same book – and read it together. Jonathan Woolf invites you to several local events.

This year's Cityread London book is Prophecy by The Sunday Times best-selling author SJ Parris, a gripping Elizabethan spy thriller set in 1583 and focusing on the plot against Elizabeth I to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne.

Under Elizabeth's rule, loyalty is bought with blood. As Mary Stuart's supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch, a young maid of honour is murdered, occult symbols carved into her flesh. The Queen's spymaster, Francis Walsingham, calls on maverick agent Giordano Bruno – an Italian 'monk, scientist, philosopher, and magician' – to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death. But the young woman's murder could point to an even more sinister truth.

During the Elizabethan age, London rapidly expanded to become one of Europe's great commercial centres. New buildings arose, theatres flourished and from 1530–1605, the population rose from 50,000 to 225,000. London's first maps date from the period, as does the Tudor version of Green Belt planning. Celebrating this at Wanstead Library, Nick Dobson will be giving an illustrated tour of the highways and byways that made Elizabethan London one of the world's most fascinating cities. Travel back to the year 1600 and take a virtual trip around our capital as it looked 400 years ago. You'll see a few familiar landmarks, but be prepared to experience the sights of a city very different to modern London.

In an Elizabethan society riddled with division and doubt, codes were a vital means by which secret communication could take place. But for every code there was a codebreaker and in Prophecy, ciphers and codes loom large, their real meaning decoded after the interception of letters to Mary, Queen of Scots. Once resealed, the codebreakers waited for their opponents' next move and were prepared to pounce. Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, but at South Woodford Library we are going to reveal the secret codes used by the Tudors. Find out how Tudor spies conspired against Mary, Queen of Scots, which led to her losing her head. Then, become a secret agent and decipher some codes yourself.

We are also delighted to host SJ Parris herself for a talk in the beautiful surroundings of Ilford Hospital Chapel, which is the oldest building in Redbridge and one of the gems in the borough's architectural crown.

A Tour of Elizabethan London will take place at Wanstead Library on 6 April from 6.30pm (free). Call 020 8708 7400

Talk to a Tudor will take place at South Woodford Library on 8 April from 2pm (free). Call 020 8708 9067

An Evening with SJ Parris will take place at Ilford Hospital Chapel on 20 April from 7pm (free; booking required). Call 020 8708 2414 or visit wavidi.co/cr2017

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