An apothecary and a queen combine their diverse skills to find a killer.
Apothecary Simon Maldon and his wife, Hannah, live with their two adopted children in a small village outside London. When a dying man stumbles into their shop and tells them that Simon’s brother-in-law Will Clark was deliberately murdered, not killed in a robbery as they thought, Simon decides to investigate for the sake of Annie, his widowed sister. As Simon tells his old friend Queen Elizabeth I of his search for Will’s killer, he fails to realize how much she misses the other mysteries they had solved together (The Lady Flirts with Death, 2013, etc.). At length she makes it clear that she wants him to join an English delegation traveling to Scotland with an offer to make her cousin Mary Queen of Scots her heir if she’ll marry Elizabeth’s longtime friend and rumored lover Robert Dudley. Although Simon doubts he'll be of any use, Elizabeth trusts his judgment and ability to read people. She orders Calkin, a sergeant of her guards and old friend of Simon, to hunt for the killer. In the meantime, Simon takes a ship bound for Scotland. At an overnight stop, he and his fellow delegates are told that Mary is not in Edinburgh. Dickie Muir, the steward for Geordie Kerr, the laird of Duns Tower, claims Mary is shortly expected in Duns, so they follow him there. No sooner have they arrived than Simon realizes they’re in a trap—but how to escape it? Back home, Calkin and Simon’s entire family are in danger from a determined killer.
Simon’s third is once again long on historical detail, short on mystery.