The Mark of the Salamander: The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.


Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder. 

Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan hides in London, before he is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind.

Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hordes of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire. 

THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era. 

“The constables are here with a warrant to arrest Master Nelan for murder.”

“Let them in,” Laurens said. “No, don’t!” Nelan cried.

“Let. Them. In,” Laurens snapped. The footman left the study.

“Then I must go,” Nelan said.

“No,” his father replied. “We are visitors here. Refugees. England is renowned for its adherence to the law. You must surrender to the constables.”

“Quickly, Dr Dee, what do I do?” Nelan asked.

“There are other significant elements in your horoscope that suggest you have a part to play in the future of thiscountry. That’s why I’m here to help you escape: because you can’t do that while confined within a prison. So, youmust run away and avoid capture for as long as possible. Then you can absolve yourself of this unjust accusation.Now, you must go,” Dee said, pointing to the window.

Nelan opened it.

“Do not go,” his father said. “You must defend yourself, and my honour.”

“Father, I must. The constables—”

Laurens squeezed himself between Nelan and the window. There he stood, legs astride, arms folded, glaring at him. At times, he had a fearsome presence. This was one of them. “You are staying here,” he said through gritted teeth.

“But, Dr Dee, even if I run, they’ll catch me,” Nelan said. “It’s broad daylight outside.”

“Not anymore,” Dee murmured, nodding his head. “Look out the window.”

Outside, a mist as thick as pea soup hung over the river. Where’s that come from? Did it arise naturally, or did Dr Dee conjure it out of the ether?

“Where is he?” an unfamiliar voice boomed from the corridor. “Nelan, be a man,” his father said, “and accountfor your actions. If you flee, you will dishonour the Michaels’ family name.”

Nelan clenched his fists. “Father, I have to find another way to clear my name. I’ll not end my days in Newgate or Marshalsea for a crime I didn’t commit. Besides, if anyone’s guilty, it’s Guillermo. Now, move, please!”

“I will not!”

“This time, I’ll not bow to your wishes. I’m innocent and disappointed that you don’t believe me. I beg you, getout of my way.”


The study door burst open, and Laurens glanced towards the intruder. In one swift, agile movement Nelan darted between his father’s legs and came out the other side. He scrambled onto the windowsill and jumped down to the ground outside before his father had time to stop him. Finally, he’d found an advantage to being small. The ground was moist and soft from the mist. A light breeze swirled vapour around him, adding a ghostly effect to the scene. From the study he heard muffled voices: those of the constables, his father, and Dr Dee.

He knew the paths leading to and from the house like he knew the course of the river. He felt invisible to the world, and in a way, he was. Leaving one life behind and taking the first frightened, tentative steps into a new one, he concentrated on every footstep. He could barely see the path, but he knew that the river flowed by some fifty paces in front of his house.

There he met an extraordinary sight. He stepped out of the swirling mist and into broad daylight. Apart from his house, everywhere was clear: the north bank of the river in Chiswick, the monastery of Syon Abbey to the west, and to the east the city of London, where filaments of woodsmoke snaked into the dawn skies on the horizon. The misthad settled around his house, but nowhere else. He’d never witnessed such a strange phenomenon in all the years he’d lived there.

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Justin Newland’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. 

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall. 

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution. 

The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age. 

His work in progress is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada. 

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts. 

Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

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