Commanded to investigate the murder of mercer's guildsman Will Crounce by his patron John Thoresby, the Machiavellian Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of the realm, Owen Archer (Apothecary Rose, 1993) finds intrigue high and low. Jasper de Melton, the orphaned apprentice who witnessed the murder, has disappeared. Crounce's business partner Gilbert Ridley, terrified by his discovery of Crounce's severed hand, has shrunk into a pitiable fear of his own death, which follows apace. Ridley's nearest and dearest, from his neglected wife to his son and heir to his ambitious, wife-beating son-in-law Paul Scorby, are locked in a struggle for control of Goldbetter and Company, the family business. Why has Martin Wirthir, Crounce and Ridley's unsavory go- between, offered to help Archer's wife, apothecary Lucie Wilton, find Jasper? And what have Goldbetter's troubles to do with the ailing King Edward III's dalliance with the scheming Alice Perrers, once Queen Philippa's favorite chambermaid, now her successor in the royal bedchamber? Before two more murders lead Owen and his allies to the truth, Robb reveals an elaborate network of corruption and revenge. A lovingly detailed background informs and animates the plot at every point instead of merely serving as an exotic setting. Robb puts the history back into the historical mystery.