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There've been some delightfully shadowy murders in the history of the English monarchy--from the ""accidental"" death of William Rufus during a boar hunt, to the horrid demise of the Princes in the Tower, those unfortunate nephews of Richard III. The generally accepted version of the torture/murder of Edward II (1284-1327) is the basis for Doherty's first novel, a busy and chilling medieval mystery. The sleuth/narrator here is Edmund Beche, clerk of the English Royal Chancery, who wonders with considerable dread why King Edward III has now, 16 years after his father's murder, ordered an investigation. And why Beche? Beche, bitter and worldly-wise, confesses to his only friend, Richard the Prior, that he (Beche) could always be ""quietly"" disposed of. But powered by a ""restless excitement,"" Beche begins his perilous journey, spurred by weighty questions: What had happened during the presumably abortive attack on Berkeley Castle by a handful of the deposed King's supporters who sought to rescue him from the dungeon pit? Why was the disposal of Edward's body so secret? What happened to the guards? Such questions multiply as Beche interviews frightened-to-downright-sinister witnesses and informants--including the dreadful dowager Queen Isabella (she exhibits what she says is her husband's heart), who, with her lover, Mortimer, had deposed, imprisoned and probably ordered the murder of Edward II. Beche will evade (just barely) some medieval hit men, do a bit of killing of his own, burrow into a tomb (and find a grisly surprise), and do some cerebral sleuthing among secret royal papers. His quest finally leads him to Rome and the Crown of his labors--as well as to the most dismal of betrayals. In his historical Note, the author mentions extant evidence that adds weight to his fictional speculations about the death of Edward II. All in all, an intelligent, lively and tantalizing mystery, which shudders throughout with menace and villainous pursuits.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1985
ISBN: 1590580435
Publisher: St. Martin's