At first, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this book and I blamed that feeling on the fact I’d picked up the sixth book in a series. However, after a few chapters, I fell into the story – partly helped because many of the characters are based on actual historical figures, so I already had a sense of who they were and the real-life roles they had, but also because the tale itself is so engaging.
Chisolm does a marvellous job of bringing to life the latter years of Elizabeth the First’s reign and the rise of her favourite, the Earl of Essex, and the various politicking that went on. Her lead character is Sir Robert Carey, a courtier and cousin of the queen who, in this instalment is in Oxford where the queen is on progress. Determined to wrest from her Majesty’s tight fingers wages he’s owed for being Deputy Warden of the West march with Scotland, Carey converges on Oxford as well. Instead of getting his fee, Carey is given a task – to find out what really happened to the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley’s first wife, Amy Robsart, thirty years earlier.
The death of Amy has always been considered mysterious and cast aspersions not only on the queen but her favourite, Leicester, and is long read (and hotly debated) as one of the reasons Queen Elizabeth didn’t marry him. Effectively a cold case, Carey begins his investigation, but all too quickly discovers there are those who don’t want the truth to come out. Soon, Carey is in as much danger as it seems young Amy was as well…
Parallel to this story is that of Carey’s trusted man, Sergeant Dodd, who coming to join his master, is waylaid in violent circumstances and held captive. It’s not only the mystery of Amy’s death Carey has to solve, but of Dodd’s disappearance too. Carey must find his man before it’s too late – for Dodd, Carey and the queen.
This ended up being a rollicking good read. Historically accurate with lovely fictive embellishes, it should please lovers of history and those after a page-turning murder-mystery. I liked this so much, I went and bought the first few Carey adventures and cannot wait to read them