This review originally appeared on the website of the Historical Novel Society and can be seen here.
This, the sixth book in the Sir Robert Carey mystery series, recounts the adventures of amateur sleuth Carey, the youngest son of Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, Elizabeth I’s Lord Chamberlain and half-brother. In this tale, Carey is ordered to reopen a 30-year-old mystery: the murder of Amy Robsart, wife of Elizabeth I’s paramour Robert Dudley. The shadow cast from Robsart’s suspicious death ultimately prevented the Queen from marrying her greatest love and now, decades later, the queen is being blackmailed. Carey is given carte blanche to pursue every lead, even those that may prove inconvenient for the feisty monarch.
The level of period detail on everything from food to clothing and weapons to mercenary soldiering is extremely satisfying – Chisholm fully immerses her readers in the Elizabethan court – but the book focuses heavily on the machinations of the court, and so the mystery is treated as a rather minor part of the narrative. The many references to Carey’s previous adventures are lost on those who haven’t read the previous books, but Carey is a likeable scoundrel whose misadventures are as full of bravado and political maneuvering as they are sleuthing – a hapless Sherlock Holmes of the 16th century.