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In the autumn of 1523, Roger Shallot, self-proclaimed doctor and physician, rogue, charlatan and secret emissary of King Henry VIII and his Satanic Eminence Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Chancellor of England, has nothing to do. A predicament which proves the old axiom 'that the devil finds work for idle hands'; with Shallot, this does not take long. Shallot's master, Benjamin Daunbey, has been sent to Italy on a diplomatic mission, leaving Shallot in charge of their manor outside Ipswich. Shallot would deeply love to go a-courting, in particular of the beautiful Miranda, but he is under strict orders and bound by the most solemn oaths not to approach her. Shallot is also forbidden to practise the art of medicine. So he takes to reading and stumbles upon the riches which can be accrued by the finding and selling of true relics. He goes searching and soon discovers his own: some straw from the stable at Bethlehem, Herod's tooth, Pilate's wig and, his greatest find of all, the spear which pierced Christ's side. Before long Shallot is in trouble - and in prison. However, rescued by the return of his master and the influence of Cardinal Wolsey, Shallot soon finds himself at court, where he is commissioned by King and Cardinal to break the law - to steal back for the crown the Orb of Charlemagne, now under close guard at the priory at Clerkenwell before being taken to the Hapsburg Emperor Charles V. Benjamin and Roger have no choice but to agree to the task. They enter the house by stealth, only to stumble across a greater mystery - a massacre has taken place and the Orb has been stolen. Before long they are drawn, not only into the shadowy underworld of Tudor London and the illegal trade of relics, but also into murder, mayhem and blackmail as they race against time to find the Orb of Charlemagne and save their own necks.
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