Elizabethan sleuths Matthew and Joan Stock are summoned to court, presented to the Queen (whose life they saved in The Bartholomew Fair Murders), and put on special assignment: they must learn whether Mistress Frances Challoner's uncle, Sir John, was murdered or just accidentally drowned when he returned from warring in Ireland last year. Arriving at his castle, they find: a churlish housekeeper and steward unwilling to assist them; an Irish cook who supposedly speaks no English but spies on the household for a vengeful neighbor, Lord Stratton; Conroy, Sir John's valet, disagreeably antagonizing all; and, by far the worst, a young woman, beheaded and clutching a dead cat, in their bedroom cupboard. Then, all too quickly, Joan has premonitions, Stratton threatens Matthew, Conroy disappears, and bloodstains appear on the stable floor; the staff murmurs about the ghost of the Black Keep, and rumors abound that Sir John plundered Irish churches and buried the loot on his property. Also: that lake he drowned in was man-made, for no discernible purpose. Soon Mistress Frances and her wedding party arrive, someone swipes at her with an axe, her dreams are analyzed by Joan, and Matthew discovers a senile old man, a wife, and a harelipped child hidden in the stableman's cottage. Despite Matthew's stolidly insisting that he has now put the whole story together (who killed the young woman, Conroy, and Sir John, and why), Joan's not satisfied and worries it through herself--just in time to beat the Queen's one-month deadline and reveal a sorry tale of years-old fratricide and an under-the-lake watery grave. Often improbable, but drolly charming, particularly in the Queen's assessment of Matthew. A puckish addition to an amiable series.