Epiphany, 1193: the road out of Winchester was hidden by snow, and Justin de Quincy was making slow progress when he heard the first faint shout. It came again, louder and clearer, a cry for help. Spurring his stallion, de Quincy raced toward the source.
But he was already too late. As the two assailants fled, de Quincy cradled the dying man, straining to make out his whispered words. "They did not get it," he rasped. "Promise me. You must deliver this letter to her. To the queen."
Eleanor of Aquitaine sits on England's throne. At seventy, she has outlived the husband with whom she had once scandalized the world. But has she also outlived her favorite, her first-born son? Richard Lionheart, England's king, has been missing these last months. It is rumored that he is dead. Many think his youngest brother plots to steal the crown. Only Eleanor's fierce will can keep John from acting on his greed. Only a letter, splattered with the blood of a dying man murdered on the Winchester road, can tell her if Richard still lives.
With the same sure touch she has brought to her historical fiction, Sharon Kay Penman turns to the mystery form. Setting her story in a period she captured brilliantly in earlier novels, she introduces Justin de Quincy. Bastard-born, de Quincy is the son of a high cleric who never acknowledged him, bestowing on the boy--in lieu of name or fortune--only an education. As it happens, it is a gift that will take young de Quincy into the very centers of power--and into the heart of danger, making him the Queen's man.
Moving from the royal chambers in the Tower of London to the alehouses and stews of Southwark, from the horrors of Newgate Gaol to the bustling streets of Winchester, de Quincy proves his mettle as he tracks a brutal and cunning murderer and uncovers the sinister intrigues of Eleanor's court.
It's 1193. In a bleak and bitterly cold England, King Richard, on his way back from the crusades, has been missing for two months, and his ruthless brother John is scheming for the throne. Penman (Here Be Dragons) sets this energetic and adroitly plotted series launch within this historical framework, giving Justin de Quincy, the well-educated but illegitimate son of a bishop, a chance to save England. Justin is too late to aid a goldsmith murdered by thieves, but he does take the wealthy man's hidden letters to their destination: the Queen mother, Eleanor. Of course, he reads them first and discovers that King Richard, with the connivance of the French king, is being held prisoner in Austria. The Queen appoints Justin as her chief investigator into the goldsmith's murder, giving him money, carte blanche and dire warnings as to the need for secrecy. Justin--comely, courageous and shrewd--quickly befriends a wide array of sheriffs, doxies and wenches, and flits from palace to alehouse to brothel ferreting out plots and conspiracies. The sounds of swordplay and bodices being ripped are loud and frequent. The accomplished author of historical novels employs some stereotypical characters (if he sneers, he's a villain) and much cliched prose ("...her mouth as soft and ripe as Summer strawberries"), yet Justin is so beguiling and, the action so lively and unpredictable, that readers will cheer Justin's return in further adventures.
Customer ReviewsSee All
For Certes, it’s entertaining
Even though the hero is a bit bland, the mystery is well constructed and the characters are engaging. I just hope that Penman writes another volume tying up some loose ends. I want Luke to marry Aldith, Nell to find happiness, and Justin to find his lady love (mayhap Nell ?).