In this second in the Elizabeth I mystery series, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth Tudor has just been made Queen and goes to visit her mother's grave on the eve of her procession down the streets of London and is greeted by Jane Seymour's nephew, Edward, whose father, once Lord Protector to the boy King Edward and eventually killed, was with Jack St. Maur, who is a relative of the Seymour's, and whose father, Thomas, died trying to get Elizabeth I on the throne and was once romantically entangled with her in an innocent, young way. St. Maur grew up under the household of John and Bella Harrington, close family friends of Elizabeth's. The Seymour family believe that Edward will be the natural heir to the throne.
During her procession, a high-born lady, Penelope Whyte, Bella Harrington's sister, and a known "light skirt" who died pregnant, is murdered, it is believed, accidentally in Elizabeth's stead. Elizabeth's unusual band of helpers: Meg (the herbalist), Ned Topside (the actor), Kat (her maid), Jenks (her horseman), Lord Cecil (now her Lord Protector and advisor in all things) and her cousin Lord Harry and all here to help her solve the mystery as well as two new people: a former thief named Bett and her deaf son.
Meg runs into someone from her old life who remembers her as Sarah, and some of Meg's memories come back to her. She knows she has a husband and that she does not want to go back to that life. She wants to stay working for the Queen and with Ned, with whom she is in love. So now she spends her time trying to avoid anyone who might recognize her.
There are many suspects, such as Robin, who is the Head of her Stables and a close friend (and later in her life a rumored lover), John Harrington, who confesses to the crime, but whom Elizabeth has a hard time believing did the deed, even Lord Harry, her cousin seems to be a suspect. Elizabeth feels she can only trust her close circle of advisers who helped her solve the previous murderous plot.
When Bett gets caught looking for information at the Dowager Duchess's house for her diary, which she does not get a chance to look at, but is able to grab a letter with sensitive information in it, she is sent to prison, and because she is a former thief, she will hang. Elizabeth has no knowledge of this and is looking for her.
Even though Elizabeth is a first a little frightened by the thought that someone near and dear is a traitor to her and to England, she gathers her strength and goes out to find the killer in the night and becomes captured herself. This is really a good book, but perhaps I am just saying that because one of my favorite historical figures is Elizabeth I. She had her father's red-headed temper, her mother's cunning in politics, and an intelligence all her own to not only lead an empire, but to solve any complex murder that may fall upon her doorstep.
I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell