In which our nimble heroine’s loyalties and espionage skills are extravagantly tested.
The third Palace of Spies novel is a slightly more sober affair than its predecessors. Court shenanigans and stolen kisses yet abound, but when readers rejoin Peggy Fitzroy on her adventures as a confidential agent for the crown, the threat of danger looms larger and darker than ever with the Jacobite plot intensifying into action. Peggy’s playful narration still keeps the story sallying forth—her description of her disastrous dance performance for the Prince of Wales is guffaw-worthy, and she produces a delightful string of alliteration that runs on for three lines—but her steady stream of bons mots is eventually inadequate when a main character suffers a truly devastating loss. Further complicating her progress is the destabilizing effect of the abrupt reappearance of her father, long thought dead, and the increasingly squirrelly behavior of her patron, Mr. Tinderflint. Her investigation into their respective characters drags on to a degree that may stir readers to impatience. But fret not, gentle readers, because feisty “Peggy Mostly” and her champions (sly cousin Olivia and brave sweetheart Matthew) always get their man, usually with dramatic flair to boot.
Like its heroine, Zettel’s tale is still smarter and wittier than its rivals. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)