The first in a series by the pseudonymous Chishom, author of other historical fiction, paints a vivid picture of 16th-century life in northern England, on Scotland's border. Sir Robert Carey has been dispatched to Carlisle from Queen Elizabeth's court to take on the job of Deputy to Sir Thomas Scrope, Warden of the West March and husband to Sir Robert's sister Philadelphia. The area is rife with warring clans, violence, and corruption. Meanwhile, Sir Robert, attended by clever, devoted servant Barnabus, confronts a spate of additional problems. How to deal with vicious Sir Richard Lowther, who expected to get the Deputy job? Where to get the horses needed for the ceremonial funeral of Sir Thomas's father, the past Warden? How to find out who murdered Sweetmilk Graham, youngest son of Jock of the Peartree, a constant raider of West March farm country? Dour Sergeant Henry Dodd and Sir Robert realize it's no random killing, but the case is put on the back burner when Sir Robert--worried by reports of a massive raid by Jock Graham and the Earl of Bothwell--disguises himself as a peddler and penetrates the enemy's tower headquarters at Netherby. The efforts of his sister and her friend Elizabeth Widdrington save him from total disaster, but his rash exploit does solve the puzzle of Sweetmilk's killing and brings peace--however temporary--to the West March. A briskly paced debut rich in spiky characters, eccentric accents, and, above all, a charismatic hero with a sense of honor and a sense of humor.