The third novel in Sharon Kay Penman's much-loved medieval mystery series featuring Justin de Quincy.
July 1193: Richard Lionheart, eldest and most favored son of Dowager Queen Eleanor of Aquitane, languishes in an Austrian dungeon, held for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor. Lusting after the crown in England, his brother John plots with his country's bitterest foe, King Philippe of France, to see to it Richard never leaves Austria alive. But the Queen has already begun to meet the ransom demands, and it is only a matter of time before the Austrians turn over their royal prisoner. And then one of the ransom payments vanishes in the fastnesses of Wales, itself wracked by rebellion and intrigue. Into this maelstrom, Eleanor sends her trusted man, Justin de Quincy—and murder soon follows...
In Penman's third polished medieval mystery (after 1998's Cruel as the Grave), her dedicated and resourceful hero, Justin de Quincy, tries to recover, quite literally, a king's ransom in coffers of precious metals and bales of wool, which are as valuable as gold, that have been stolen in northern Wales. It's 1193, and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine fervently needs to ransom her eldest son, Richard Lionheart, from the Holy Roman Emperor before King Philippe of France can interfere and her younger son, John, can seize the crown. Justin proceeds into the thickets and wild forests of Wales, where he's deeply mistrusted both as an Englishman and an outsider. He must penetrate abundant Welsh intrigues and deceptions in order to discover the treasure as well as solve murders and comfort bereaved lovers. Despite a large cast of characters from every social class, Penman keeps them all clearly distinguishable. Her familiarity with Cheshire and Wales is evident in her descriptions of the terrain and verdure, while her use of modern language, with only an occasional "for certes" to remind readers of the period, makes the story a pleasure to read. Author tour. FYI:The first mystery in the series, The Queen's Man (1996), was nominated for an Edgar. Penman is also the author of The Sunne in Splendour (1982) and five other historical novels.