Cornwall, 1571. Queen Elizabeth has commissioned a select group of scholars to gather at Priory House in order to make a convincing case for the claims of England to lands in the New World—hopefully by studying maps, manuscripts, and accounts of voyages by previous explorers to try to discredit the competing claims of Spain, Italy, and others. The venture is to be led by widow Susanna Leigh, Lady Appleton (Face Down Before the Rebel Hooves, 2001, etc.), who has left Leigh Abbey, her home in Kent, to assist her longtime friend Sir Walter Pendennis, the owner of Priory House. All is in readiness: After a long recuperation from a crippling accident, Sir Walter’s wife Eleanor has arrived at Priory House, and Susanna’s faithful maid Jennet is in attendance as well. The research has barely started, however, when Susanna discovers Martin Calthorpe, one of the scholars, dead in his room. Accident or murder? Has his demise something to do with Calthorpe’s contacts with Richard Twide and David Ingram, both returned from the New World? As Susanna’s investigation continues, two more scholars lose their lives. One of them, Owen Merrick, has been accompanied to Priory House by his daughter Gywn, and it’s through her that Susanna finds the answers she seeks in a melodramatic dénouement far from Priory House.
Overplotted and overpopulated but, like most of Susanna’s adventures, original, beguiling, and eminently readable.