Being a friend to both a royal and a crook can be a dangerous pastime.
Apothecary Simon Maldon has long been a friend to Elizabeth Tudor. Her sister Mary occupies the throne, while Elizabeth is in the Tower of London, accused of taking part in a plot to overthrow her. Simon visits her in the guise of a Spanish priest, but there is little he can do for her. On a visit to the Tower, however, he runs into Peto the Pope, a thief he counts as an old friend. Accused of murder, Peto denies his guilt, at least this time, and Simon tries to help him. Meanwhile, Simon’s wife, Hannah, desperate for a child, takes in Janet, a pregnant girl who soon delivers a baby girl. The mysterious new mother is strangely uninterested in her child, but Hannah, who has fallen for the infant, puts up with Janet’s laziness and deceit in order to keep the baby in her home. Preoccupied with his search for the man who set up Peto, Simon pays little attention to Janet. As he roams the mean streets of Southwark with Peto’s devoted follower, Pen, an alleged half-wit who lives with his sister, Simon catches the attention of the man who’s trying to take over Peto’s gang of thieves. If only the distracted couple had time to talk, they might realize that their current obsessions are not only related but also very dangerous for both of them.
Simon’s third appearance (Her Highness’ First Murder, 2010, etc.) is less notable for mystery than for historical detail.