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Full Name: Christoval Alvarez
Nationality: British
Organization: British Intelligence
Occupation Agent

Creator: Ann Swinfen
Time Span: 2014 - 2017


Christoval 'Kit' Alvarez is an agent with British Intelligence.

Since this all takes place in the late 1500's, there was not actual government organization that would answer to that name but telling anyone close to Sir Francis Walsingham (c.1532 - 1590) that and you might get a knowing smile. Walsingham was a man of clear vision who understood the importance of having sufficient information on matters of state so as to help the ruler on the throne make intelligent decisions. When we meet Alvarez being pushed into service to Walsingham, that titled man was serving as the Queen's Secretary of State and would until his death.

Alvarez is 16 when we first meet 'him', an apprentice to 'his' father, Baltasar Alvarez, a noted physician often on call to the rich and powerful even though he was aging and his hands shook more than he would like or admit it. Both Alvarez's are originally from Portugal four years before, heading to England to avoid the dreaded Inquisition that ruled that country as it did its larger neighbor, Spain. Their need to flee was due to the fact that the Alvarez family were Jewish and therefore in terrible danger from the extremes of Catholicism on the Iberian Peninsula in those days. Now to survive, they are "the 'Forced Ones', driven under duress to take whatever is the dominant religion in the country where we live. It is only thus that we can survive."

"I have watched and helped my father since childhood. I have been his assistant physician at the Hospital of St. Bartholomew for two years now," Alvarez would proudly state when challenged in the first recorded adventure. Alvarez also affirms, "We are the best physicians in London" and says so with no doubt. Now young Kit Alvarez was happily following in 'his' father's footsteps.

The quotes around the 'him' and 'his' comes from the fact that Kit Alvarez, the young man, was really a young woman. The ruse has begun during the frantic escape years before where the fate of a fleeing refugee female was not to be explored so her hair was cut close to her head and every effort made to disguise any physical evidence of her true gender, though at 12 at the time that was not too difficult. It worked but her father felt, upon arrival in England, that it would be best for a time to continue the ruse and over time neither pushed to change it. Therefore, when we meet her, she is thought by all to be a him and that deception would continue.

Alvarez has a lot more going for her than just the training in medicines. Elder Alvarez had seen to tutors in music, mathematics, and philosophy so Kit's education is quite well rounded and her intellect is quite high, including a facility in languages.

It would be in the learning of mathematics and not medicine that would attract the attention of Walsingham and push the young woman into the espionage world. Those gifted in numbers were known to be exceptional in making and breaking of codes and therein lay Walsingham's needs. As part of his training, Alvarez had routinely been given codes and ciphers by his noted tutor and had successfully solved each 'puzzle' so his skill in such matters was established. Ironically, though, it would be as a doctor seeing to the ailment of Walsingham's top lieutenant, Robert Poley, that Alvarez even came to their attention. Once known by them, though, there would be no going back.

Good Lines:
- About a prison executioner, "he might be one of those who smiles at your face while slipping a knife between your ribs from behind."
- About a clumsy maid, "[she] could shatter an earthenware pitcher on the far side of the room merely by looking at it."


Number of Books:9
First Appearance:2014
Last Appearance:2017

1 The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2014

"It is the year 1586.
England is awash with traitors, plotting to assassinate the Queen and bring about a foreign invasion.
The young physician Christoval Alvarez, a refugee from the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, is coerced into becoming a code-breaker and spy in Sir Francis Walsingham’s espionage service. In the race to thwart the plot, who will triumph – the ruthless conspirators or the equally ruthless State?"
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2 The Enterprise of England The Enterprise of England
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2014

"The year is 1587.
Facing the threat of King Philip’s Enterprise of England – Spanish invasion and annexation of the country – Sir Francis Walsingham’s espionage service spreads a spy network across Europe.
After caring for hundreds of maimed and wounded soldiers returning from the fall of Sluys, young physician and code-breaker Christoval Alvarez is sent on two dangerous missions to Amsterdam, where, amongst the friendly Hollanders, treason and treachery lurks.
Christoval’s ship, sailing home, plays its part in the great sea battle in which the small and inexperienced English navy must confront the most powerful sea force in the world."
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3 The Portuguese Affair The Portuguese Affair
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2014

"The year is 1588.
The year after defeating the Spanish Armada, England retaliates.
The expedition to Portugal sets out to destroy what remains of Spain’s Atlantic fleet, drive the Spanish out of Portugal, put the claimant Dom Antonio of Aviz on the throne, and seize the Azores.
But from the time the English fleet, led by Drake and Norreys, reaches Plymouth, things start to go wrong. Christoval Alvarez, sent to carry out two missions by Walsingham, has a more important private plan in mind.
Are any members of the family still alive? And what will become of the disaster-ridden expedition?"
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4 Bartholomew Fair Bartholomew Fair
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2014

"The year is 1589.
When Bartholomew Fair, London’s largest public festival, is threatened in 1589 by five hundred armed soldiers dismissed from service without pay, the authorities must act swiftly and decisively to prevent trouble.
Yet other unrest is brewing. Young physician and code-breaker Christoval Alvarez stumbles upon a sinister troupe of Italian puppeteers hellbent on causing chaos, but it soon becomes apparent that more than mischief is in the air."
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5 Suffer the Little Children Suffer the Little Children
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2015

"The year is 1589.
In Elizabethan London, no child is safe.
Children are misused and exploited by parents, masters, strangers, and society at large. Even the children of the rich are in danger.
When a five-year-old heiress to great estates is kidnapped, Christoval Alvarez, the players of James Burbage’s company, and a disreputable group of child beggars all become involved in the search.
At Seething Lane, matters are approaching a crisis. Sir Francis Walsingham is dying and, as Thomas Phelippes struggles to hold the intelligence service together, he receives information that another attack on the Queen is planned.
The identity of the assassin is unknown, but Phelippes does know the place and the date – Whitehall Palace on the day of the Twelfth Night Revels."
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6 Voyage to Muscovy Voyage to Muscovy
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2015

"The year is 1590. 
An agent sent to Muscovy to investigate suspected treason amongst employees of the Muscovy Company has disappeared without trace on the way to Astrakhan.
Sir Francis Walsingham, who began the investigation, is dead, but the directors of the Company know that the agent must be found, dead or alive.
The perfect opportunity comes when the Tsar, Emperor of All the Russias, asks for an English physician to treat his young half brother. 
Christoval Alvarez, physician and former Walsingham agent, is the obvious choice, but is loathe to travel to this violent and barbarous land.
However, there is no withstanding some of the most powerful men in England, so Kit is soon on the way to Muscovy, facing storms, attack by pirates, and a fearsome Russian winter."
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7 The Play's the Thing The Play's the Thing
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2016

"The year is 1592.
When Kit Alvarez returns from Muscovy, it is to discover that her post as physician at St Thomas’s hospital has been given to another.
Trying to eke out the small income she earns from some of Dr Nuñez’s private patients, she undertakes paid work as a copyist with James Burbage’s company.
But the players’ companies find themselves under threat. Two of Burbage’s men are murdered. One of Henslowe’s men is attacked.
And two important new plays go missing, one by Will Shakespeare and one by Christopher Marlowe.
Are the thefts merely the work of a jealous unlicensed company? Or is there a conspiracy afoot to use the plays in some more dangerous game?"
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8 That Time May Cease That Time May Cease
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2016

"The year is 1592.
When the violent arrest of an innocent apprentice sparks a riot in Southwark during the summer of 1592, more lies behind it than a simple grievance.
Increasing poverty, vagrancy, and crime in a restless London compel a nervous Privy Council to close the playhouses, forcing Lord Strange’s Men to go on tour, while hostility to foreign refugees, aggravated by Marlowe’s play, The Jew of Malta, adds to the danger on the streets for Strangers like Kit Alvarez.
Other dangers are more subtle.
The ensnaring of young men by illegal loan sharks and the circulation of damning accusations, both public and private, increase the atmosphere of fear and distrust which permeates a city threatened by twin evils – death of the body from plague, death of the soul from heresy.
The performance of the new play of Dr Faustus seems prophetic when it is followed by 'a great reckoning in a little room'."
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9 The Lopez Affair The Lopez Affair
Written by Ann Swinfen
Copyright: 2017

"The year is 1593.
When ruthless men are locked in an unremitting struggle for supremacy, even the innocent may become victims.
The Earl of Essex, Elizabeth I's arrogant favourite, will stop at nothing in his greedy pursuit of power, at times heedlessly trying her patience too far.
His great rival, Lord Burghley's son Sir Robert Cecil, is a frail, crippled man, a man Essex believes can be swept aside. But Cecil possesses a brilliant mind and an understanding of statecraft that Essex will never match.
Before long Christoval Alvarez is caught up in the complex maze of their intrigues, which lead to violence, injustice, and ultimately a rigged trial and execution. "
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These are some very imaginative and very well-crafted historical adventures which have far and way enough spy-fi in them to qualify for inclusion in this compendium but which would also fit in any listing of historical thrillers.

Alvarez is a fascinating character, trying to live in various sets of dual-lives. The woman disguised as a man is the big one, of course, but the doctor who is also an operative is also very important and intriguing.

I was not alive back in the days that Alvarez was operating and neither, of course, was the author but the descriptions of the settings and actions are all done so well that it made me think I had been, and certainly feel the author had been.


My Grade: B+


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