Anatomy of a Heretic by David Mark-Book review

Read my review of this historical thriller featuring the Duke of Buckingham’s spy and assassin whose mission in 1628 takes a strange and disturbing turn in Anatomy of a Heretic by David Marks.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Netgalley

Publication Date : 21 January 2022

It’s 1628 and Nicoclaes de Pelgrom, a young spy and assassin in the employ of George Villers, the Duke of Buckingham and is tasked to carry out a mission for Mariam Towerson whose husband was killed in the massacre of Amboyna. Mariam wants the men who led her husband to death to die and Nicoclaes is the man to do this. Nicoclaes infiltrates a ship posing as a Dutch sailor to carry out his plan but things a dark and sinister turn when the ship crashes.


This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting and was a lot darker than the usual historical fiction I read. However, I did enjoy the story, although I must confess, I did skim through the grim parts.

The book is told from the points of view of Nicholas, Jeronimus Cornelisz-the villain of the piece and Lucretia Jansz, the woman who gets caught between them.

I enjoyed reading the descriptions of London and life on the sea in 1628, and it isn’t a time that is often explored in fiction. George Villers, the Duke Of Buckingham ( a real-life figure) is an intriguing personality and you can understand Nicholas being in thrall to him. The incidents in the book like Amboyna and Villers’s influence on royalty are based on fact and make an interesting backdrop to the story.

Nicholas is a sympathetic character and a good counterpoint to Cornelisz who I found deeply disturbing. Lucretia is a victim, but this is a realistic portrayal given how vulnerable women were in this period.

The author does not shy away from depicting the brutality of life on the sea particularly for ordinary serving men as well as the life in 17th century London. The descriptions are vivid and bring the story to life in a way that makes the violence more visceral.

As usual, I found myself wanting to read more about the secondary characters particularly Zwaantie, a young woman who knows how to survive.

I received a copy for a free and unbiased opinion

Content warning

Death of children- off-page, physical torture, sexual assault-off page, descriptions of physical dismemberment.

Perfect for fans

Who likes a bit more darkness and psychological thriller twist to their historical fiction


I enjoyed reading this very different historical fiction despite the fact I found it a little too dark than I usually like.

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