Herring (Macbeth’s Niece, 2007, etc.) pairs a future queen and a physician’s son to hunt down a depraved murderer.
Young Simon Maldon strikes up an unlikely friendship with Princess Elizabeth when his father is called to Hampstead Castle to treat a household servant. Henry VIII is in his last years, his only son is sickly and daughters Mary and Elizabeth are kept in the background, away from the devious political maneuvering at court. When a headless woman is found in the castle garden, Simon and Elizabeth secretly aid Hugh, a captain in the Welsh Guards who’s been tasked with finding the killer. The murdered girl, a pretty but stupid member of Elizabeth’s household, was not the first to die in this fashion. The other victims were women of easy virtue whose deaths attracted little attention, even though the corpses were dressed as nuns with rosaries by their sides. After they learn that a tall man wearing a richly decorated cloak was seen in the area of each crime, Simon roams the streets of London artlessly asking questions about the murdered women while Elizabeth decorously calls on members of the aristocracy. Among the possible suspects are Elizabeth’s castellan, several handsome but dissolute courtiers, a known criminal and a madman. As the murders continue, the investigators must divine the ruthless killer’s motives before he strikes again.
Elizabeth and Simon are believable sleuths in a promising volume rich in historical detail and intended as the first of a series.