Somebody must have been massaging blowhard Sir Roger Shallot's bloated ego; he no longer feels the need to run his mouth quite so incessantly about the phrases he fed his old mate Will Shakespeare and his dalliance with good Queen Bess. The break gives him more energy to devote to his fifth memoir, which begins when he's rescued from duty as an impromptu pallbearer for victims of London's 1523 sweating sickness and dispatched with his master, Cardinal Wolsey's gentle nephew Benjamin Daunbey (A Brood of Vipers, 1996, etc.), to the Tower of London to figure out who's making merry by dispatching the seven members of the Guild of Hangmen and sending King Henry VIII blustering blackmail letters signed Edward V--the older of the princes in the Tower allegedly murdered by Richard III some 40 years before. The letters are a fraud, of course (aren't they?), but given the scary track record of recent pretenders to the throne, the threat to the peace of Henry's kingdom is real enough, and His Majesty is determined to find out who's masquerading as the rightful king to demand tributes in gold and murdering the very executioners who are most likely to know just what did and didn't happen in the Tower back in 1485. What begins as a pretty puzzle--how did someone get into the sealed Tower garrison for all that mischief?--tails off into a workaday mystery. But as a series of gorgeous, outrageous adventures, this installment ranks with Shallot's best.