Thomas the Falconer continues his adventures as a reluctant intelligencer in his gripping fourth Elizabethan mystery (The Ramage Hawk, 2004, etc.).
The falconer is called away from domestic problems with his daughter and mistress by Sir Robert Vicary’s summons to investigate a fatal blaze on one of Sir Robert’s tenant farms. Laborer Simon Haylock’s death doesn’t seem like an accident to Thomas, and as the corpses mount, he’s sure that despite their disparate situations in life there must be an undiscovered connection. As the falconer travels his beloved Berkshire Downs, he meets several newcomers. The mapmaker and his beautiful daughter seem to be hiding secrets. So does Paulo Schweiz, who travels with an assistant and an ape putting on camera obscura shows. When Thomas rescues Paulo from the stocks, he’s rewarded with proof that poison rather than magic is behind the murders. Meanwhile, an old comrade in arms, down on his luck, is arrested by the High Sheriff, who seems to have an agenda of his own. But Thomas, who’s discovered by now that all the victims were involved in the Devil’s Jury, a legal cover-up of an old murder, determines to use the remaining jurymen as bait in the hope of trapping the guilty party.
An intriguing puzzle that shows how deeply religious differences and superstitions affected the lives of Elizabethans both highborn and low.