A most difficult and dangerous murder inquiry is forced upon a flamboyant nobleman.
Sir Robert Carey, the son of Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon, illegitimate half brother of Elizabeth I, is seeking out the queen to obtain his warrant and fee for serving as deputy warden of the West March. Elizabeth’s royal progress has taken her to Oxford, and when Carey arrives there, the queen orders him to investigate the death of Amy Robsart Dudley, wife of the love of Elizabeth's life, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester—a scandalous murder that put paid to her hopes of marrying Dudley. Unfortunately for the clever but wild Carey, Amy died 30 years ago, in 1560. Although he has little idea where to begin, his initial inquiries evidently touch a nerve, since someone shoots a crossbow bolt at him and then poisons him with belladonna. The belladonna leaves him nearly blind, making his task even more difficult. Carey’s longtime helper Sgt. Dodd is in trouble of his own after making off with an enemy’s possessions and a horse bearing the royal mark. When he’s attacked and left naked and badly hurt, his first thought is revenge. Little does he know that his search will involve him in Carey’s quest. Meanwhile, Carey fears he’ll perish on the scaffold since the queen herself is a prime suspect in the murder of her rival.
Carey’s sixth adventure (A Murder of Crows, 2010, etc.) is packed with historical detail, dangerous exploits and humor. The fact-based mystery moves along at a fairly quick pace to a complicated denouement.