Oxford, 1593, and courtier Sir Robert Carey, youngest son of The Lord Chamberlain, Baron Hunsdon, still has not received his warrant from his cousin (on the legitimate and the illegitimate sides) Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth is progressing to Oxford which is frantically crowded and preparing for her much anticipated visit.
Carey is thinking of ways to present himself to the Queen, when she sends for him.
When your Queen calls? What can you do but obey!
When your Queen changes your plans and her promises what can you do but acquiesce.
Elizabeth charges Carey with solving a thirty year old mystery--that of the death of the former wife of Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Amy Dudley (nee Robsart) who appeared to have fallen down stairs to her death.
Carey is by himself in Oxford. Dodd is still down south and Carey is forced to hire a new serving man, Hughie Tyndale. He's a Scotsman, paid to assassinate Carey. We first meet him as he is busily planning and discarding ways to dispose of Carey. He decides that being Carey's henchman will suffice, offering ample opportunity.
As a bonus, the story is littered with fascinating facts about Tudor life, from the weight of courtly dress to practices in hiring servants. When Carey hires Hughie he inspects his ears, 'looking for a ragged ear from having it nailed to the Edinburgh pillory for thieving.'
Carey also hires an insignificant looking clerk, one John Tovey, whom I'm hoping will round out to be a helpful foil in Carey's future adventures, that is if Chisholm keeps him on.
Sergeant Dodd is a treasure of a character. He's waylaid enroute to Oxford.
The scene between Elizabeth and Dodd is nicely and amusingly written.
And then there's Kat. I do hope we meet her again.
Levels of coincidental happenings, combining both Carey's investigative abilities and chance, spiral down or up depending on your perspective, to the final unforeseen revelations.
(I found the Spoiler Alert historical note at the end of the book particularly interesting. Chisholm talks about the source materials he used regarding Amy Dudley's death).
As this chapter of Carey's story closes we are left wondering what the next chapter in his life might bring.
A notably enjoyable Tudor mystery from a series I, for one, mean to continue to explore.
A NetGalley ARC