There’s never a dull moment for a clever spy.
Sir Robert Carey, a cousin to Queen Elizabeth I, serves as Deputy Warden in Carlisle and spies for the queen’s privy councilor. Now that he’s saved the life of King James of Scotland (A Clash of Spheres, 2017), Carey has a warrant to arrest the putative assassin, Jonathan Hepburn, aka Joachim Hochstetter, the favored son of a German family that has royal permission to mine copper and other metals in the Keswick area as long as the queen gets her share. Carey is waiting in Edinburgh to see his longtime henchman Sgt. Dodd when Dodd’s horse, Whitesock, arrives trembling in fear, his saddle covered in blood. A search turns up a dead body stabbed with Dodd’s dagger, his chest crushed by hooves, but no sign of Dodd. As tough as Dodd is, his wife, Janet, doesn’t believe he could have survived. Fearing she’ll lose her home because she’s childless, she begs Carey to help her conceive a child she can pass off as Dodd’s. Carey agrees even though he’s in love with Elizabeth Widdrington, who’s married to an abusive man he dare not kill because he fears the queen’s wrath. Instead, he uses the excuse of a mine inspection to go to Keswick, where he hopes to find Joachim and kill him. Along the way he meets a surgeon who reveals that Dodd has survived, nursed by an enemy who plans to kill him in a duel when he recovers. Carey's search for Joachim involves dangerous visits to a mine and some unexpected revelations.
Character-driven, swiftly moving, and filled with fascinating historical details about mining and the Scottish border country. Chisholm continues to impress with each new addition to a top-notch series.