More historical embroidery from the creator of time-traveling Nicholas Segalla, whose exploits span centuries, as related to the pseudonymous author (The Time of Murder at Mayerling, 1996, etc.). The scene this time is mid-16th-century England, where a sickly Mary Tudor reigns after marriage to Prince Philip of Spain and the bloody reestablishment of the Catholic religion. Mary’s Protestant half-sister Elizabeth, supported by canny Henry Cecil, waits in the wings for her to die. Segalla and his cherubic companion, Dr. Cesar, arrive at the Greenwich royal court on a mission for Pope Paul in Rome: The Spanish-hating, Tudor-hating Pope wants not only a watchful eye kept on Mary but also an answer to the puzzling question of who’s behind a series of obscurely threatening letters quoting St. Mark’s Gospel and signed “The Four Evangelists”—letters received by the Queen and Elizabeth, among others. There appears to be a connection to one Philip Savage, erstwhile controller at the Tower of London, and to a great secret once unearthed there. Segalla has scarcely arrived at court when Dr. Theopilus, Mary’s longtime physician, dies of poison—her care taken over by Dr. Cesar and Jane Dormer, her faithful lady-in-waiting. A string of killings ensues, presumably disposing of The Four Evangelists and their associates, but the letters continue. Not until Segalla returns to Rome, in the wake of Queen Mary’s death and of a crime of his own, does he get to the core of the whole ugly mess. Byzantine doesn’t begin to describe the absurdity of plot contrivances here, and there’s little help from a prosaic style. The least appealing of Segalla’s adventures so far.