The court of Elizabeth I once more outpaces today’s politicians for cunning, effrontery, and vengeful machinations.
Handsome, brave, clever Sir Robert Carey is doubly related to the queen as the son of Lord Hudson, who was the by-blow of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn. Carey has just been appointed Deputy Warden on the Scottish border country, home to his longtime henchman Henry Dodd, who’s become his enemy since Carey avoided a battle in which Dodd’s blood enemies, the Grahams, would have been slaughtered (A Chorus of Innocents, 2015). In addition, Carey spies for Sir Robert Cecil, the queen’s privy councillor. Scotland is awash in plots to kill Elizabeth's heir apparent, King James of Scotland, who refuses to get rid of the Catholic lords plotting with Spain to invade England. Carey arrives in Edinburgh with Simon Anricks, a Jewish philosopher and dentist bearing a secret letter from England, who’s set to debate another philosopher before the king on the weighty matter of how the solar system works. Dodd has accepted money to kill Carey. Just to make things more interesting, Lord Spynie, the king’s former favorite, is also plotting to kill him along with the elderly husband of Carey’s love, Lady Elizabeth Widdrington. The court is packed during the Christmas season with all manner of people, some of them eager to see James himself dispatched. Carey is lucky to escape death in an ambush disguised as a hunting accident. Dodd’s wife, Janet, who’s thoroughly disgusted with him, arrives at court with a warning about a possible plot to kill James. As the fates of Scotland and England hang in the balance, Carey finds so many suspects that it’s hard to identify the potential killer or killers.
As usual, Chisholm moves effortlessly from fascinating historical background to philosophical musings to violent action. Although this latest installment can be read as a stand-alone, untutored readers might want to start the series from the beginning.