August 1477, and the physician Luke Chichele is “invited” by King Edward IV to join a royal commission to investigate the death of his predecessor, King Henry VI. Henry was always reputed to be a weak ruler, and was the cause of the outbreak of the War of the Roses, a country-wide conflict which lead to Henry’s deposition by Edward. Shortly afterwards, Henry, confined to the Tower of London, mysteriously died. But now there is a claim that miracles are occurring at Henry’s tomb and Rome wishes the dead king to be beatified. Edward is keen to prevent that, hence the investigation into Henry’s life… and death.
No sooner has the investigation begun and tasks assigned, when one of their number is found dead, throttled and left floating in his fish-pond. It seems that someone is stalking Luke and his fellow investigators – someone who knows the truth about the death of a King and will stop at nothing to keep it buried… And with people like Edward, the Duke of Clarence and a certain Duke of Gloucester – the future Richard III – Luke soon realises that there is no-one that he can trust…
A recently re-released early work from Paul Doherty, this is a non-series element in a similar vein to The Death Of A King, The Whyte Harte or the recent The Last Of Days – an investigation by a fictitious character into a real historical mystery. But there’s something different about this one…
First of all, this seemed to be a timely read. The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen, is currently showing on BBC1, an adaptation of the Philippa Gregory novel. I’ll be fair, I’ve not watched it, but the press coverage seems to imply lots of heaving bosoms, soft-focus rumpy-pumpy and some dubious historical accuracy. Not really my cup of mead.
Woodville takes an important role in this story too, showing herself to be just as powerful as her husband. Basically the whole family – Clarence, Gloucester and Edward seem to be on the verge of throttling each other while she pulls the strings. As a snapshot of the time, it’s an intriguing picture and, as ever, it seems that Paul has constructed a plot structured around a number of true occurrences at the time.
The difference I mentioned to those other non-series books? It’s also a proper murder mystery as well, capable of sitting alongside the Corbett and Athelstan series. It is completely fairly clued, both for the murder of the king and the present-day murders and on top of that, it’s bloody clever. I’m going to say no more than that for fear of spoilers.
So… obviously, you know I’m going to praise one of Paul’s books, but this one has edged its way into my Top Five. One of Paul’s finest works, out of print for far too long and now available as an ebook. The Highest Recommendation.
A public service announcement now. Obviously, dear reader, you’re already reaching for mouse to head to Amazon (other ebook providers are available) to buy this or something else by Paul Doherty. Be warned if you, like me, tend to hit the “sort by price, lowest first” button after searching. The recently published ebook “Shielded Spirit – Chronicles of a Lion by Paul Doherty” is not by the Paul Doherty that I constantly review here but by someone else who shares the same name. I know nothing about the book, but do proceed with caution if you’re looking for a mystery. If you want something cheap, then I recommend the short stories that Paul has posted – my favourite is The Murder of Innocence, but there are a couple of Athelstan and an Amerotke there as well.