A cowardly assassin’s lust keeps him in constant trouble.
April 1555. While the Catholic Mary sits on the English throne, former cutpurse Jack Blackjack (A Missed Murder, 2018, etc.) is working for John Blount and his friends, who plot to make Elizabeth queen. Although he’s a paid assassin with a nice little house and a servant, Jack spends most of his time dallying with wenches in taverns. Forced into making a small wager by trickster moneylenders, Jack soon sees the amount he owes rise and the threats escalate. He’s distracted by the lovely Cat, whom he meets in a tavern. When he gets her home, her accomplice, Henry, appears and threatens him, but he disarms the pair by telling them that their act will not fool most people. Jack is almost pleased when Coroner Sir Richard of Bath arrives and accuses him of murdering the priest Father Peter in a small village outside London. The priest had a wife and children from the period when King Henry’s religion ruled, but once Mary ascended the throne, the priests were given a choice of renouncing their wives or being expelled from the church. Jack accompanies Sir Richard to the village, where Jack’s old enemy Master Atwood had accused him of the murder, in order to examine the body and find the real killer. By now, the body’s been moved and evidence destroyed by the priest’s widow, who’d followed her husband to his new posting desperate for his help. His refusal forced her to work in the local tavern and share the tavern-keeper’s bed. Father Peter is described alternately as a wonderful man and a priest who took advantage of women. Sir Richard, who admits he’s the priest’s brother, is sure he was an honorable man. Jack is no great thinker, but native cunning and the fear of death move him to investigate the murder for his own sake.
The improbably and delightfully humorous protagonist moves the story to a surprising conclusion.