Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Treace

There’s an extra character in Geoffrey Treace’s adventure story set in the dying days of Elizabethan England and that’s the landscape of Cumberland. The protagonist and hero young Peter spends much of the novel on the run from the forces of the dastardly Sir Philip Morton. Scrambling up the fells past Skiddaw Forest where eagles circle lazily, along the crags above the tarn to the Stronghold – a natural rock shelter with its views of White Horse Bent and Southern Fell. At times he hides in the bracken as his pursuers close in and in one memorable fight he struggles with a man in a scarlet doublet sent to kill him on The Edge, a rocky precipice above Nethermost Cove as the mists swirl around the peaks.

A community action at night to dismantle an enclosure wall turns ugly when Morton’s men arrive to confront the villagers but it’s lookout Peter who gets himself into trouble by lobbing a rock at the pantomime villain. Spotted by Sir Philip Peter has to leave the valley where he lives with a price on his head for attempted murder. He hooks up with a band of travelling actors and whilst in London working for Shakespeare uncovers a plot to murder the Queen. Hence the title. Whilst on the road as an actor he meets fellow runaway Kit and despite their initial mutual distrust they team up to help prevent a military coup and fight of the attentions of the murderous Sir Philip.

Cue for Treason is seen as Trease’s most successful children’s novel with it neatly plotted story line, themes of youthful rebellion, a pacey page turning narrative and links to Tudor politics and the theatrical world of William Shakespeare. It also gives an insight into everyday life in 16th century England and at times is something of a travelogue as Peter and Kit travel the country.

Penned in 1940 at the height of World War Two the novel must have been a welcome distraction from the horrors unfolding in the skies above Britain. The war must have influenced Trease to some degree as the story is essentially about young people saving England from the clutches of the forces of evil. And with so many the twists and turns in the adventure Trease never allows the story to stall but keeps the surprises coming to the breathless finale as the duo gallop to London in a bid to prevent a Cue for Treason.

Harry Mottram