Master of Logic Tom Musgrave (The Point of Death, not reviewed) doesn’t think twice before rushing to rescue comely Dutch visitor Inge Van Der Leyden from an unruly mob tossing a football on Old London Bridge. The next moment, however, the rescue is turned into a horror show when the football is replaced by a severed head. Some sharp 16th-century forensic work soon leads Tom and his old friend Talbot Law, the Bishop of Winchester’s Bailiff and the law in Southwark, to a decapitated body. But the head doesn’t belong to this corpse. The mismatch is their first hint that they’re on the trail of a killer with a grisly attachment to female Catholic redheads—not the females, just their heads, which he posts on London Bridge alongside those of the two dozen executed traitors who’ve won the legal right to their prominence. But not even Tom’s friend Will Shakespeare, the code-breaking playwright who, fresh from Romeo and Juliet, comes up with a handy solution to a gibberish cipher, explains what this gruesome series of outrages has to do with Inge’s father, wealthy Amsterdam banker Julius Van Der Leyden—or which modern Caesar is the target of the dark conspiracy the cipher reveals. Armed with the Solingen blade, Tonkin (The Fire Ship, 1992, etc.) describes with all the reverence Tom Clancy reserves for nuclear submarines, Tom takes arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing ends them.
Elizabethan detail, rousing action sequences, sound detection, an audacious solution—everything a fan of historical mysteries could hope for.