MURDER AT HATFIELD HOUSE:
An Elizabethan Mystery (Book #1)
By Amanda Carmack
Obsidian, 2013 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
1588. Princess Elizabeth is under house arrest at Hatfield House, far away from the scheming and intrigues of the royal court. Her half-sister, Queen Mary, with her Spanish husband, rule over an England that is troubled and divided. The queen, also known as Bloody Mary, is intent on returning England to the Catholic Church, terrorizing Protestants she now calls heretics.
Even though Queen Mary keeps Elizabeth on a tight budget, the princess enjoys the peaceful country life and simple pleasures, especially the songs of her chief musician, Matthew Haywood, and his daughter Kate. The two have been with Elizabeth since she was a young girl living under the protection of her step-mother, Catherine Parr, and she trusts and cares for them.
Since Catherine's death, Elizabeth has been at the mercy of Queen Mary. Her sister has little love for the daughter of Ann Boleyn, who won King Henry's heart, however briefly, thus deserting her mother and leading to the rift with the Catholic Church. With no other viable heir, however, and with her own health declining rapidly, Mary must keep the young woman alive.
The household has become accustomed to their solitude being disturbed by the Queen's men, who routinely tear everything apart in search of heretical literature. Usually they are respectful, but Lord Braceton is totally unlike his predecessors. He arrives late at night, in a fury because he and his assistant were attacked at the gates of Hatfield. His assistant is dead, but Braceton believes he was the intended target.
Fearful for her safety and that of her household, Elizabeth enlists Kate to find out who killed Braceton's man, plunging her into a shadowy world of intrigue, deceit, betrayal, and danger.
The author has created a work of excellent historical fiction and an equally excellent mystery. She deftly weaves historical fact into a fictionalized "what if" tale about Elizabeth's life before she ascended the throne. The characters, both real and fictional, are well-drawn, and ring true to the historical period. Tudor England was a fascinating era, and this book will please those who enjoy reading about it as well as fans of good mysteries. This is the first in Carmack's Elizabethan mystery series, and I do look forward to the next one.
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