1450, London. Amidst the chaos of the uprising led by Jack Cade, the French mercenaries known only as LeCorbeil seize Edmund Roseblood and execute him. His final thought is that his brother, Simon Roseblood will avenge him.
Five years later, and England stands on the brink of civil war. The weak King Henry VI and his advisors, most notably Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, are under threat from Richard, Duke of York. Amadeus Sevigny, loyal to York, is sent to London with to prepare the way ahead for this latest uprising, to seek damaging information held by a man who has vanished and to bring down the most influential supporter of the King – Simon Roseblood.
But Roseblood has designs of his own – he too seeks the information and has other plans as well. But all the time, LeCorbeil stand in the shadows, waiting their opportunity. They have their own agenda…
A new series from Paul Doherty – the first in a trilogy, I believe, although there’s nothing to say that on the review copy that I received from NetGalley – it’s something of a departure from what he’s best known for, the historical mystery, usually with a locked room thrown in for good measure.
I think this is best described as historical intrigue. It’s set at the dawn of the Wars of the Roses. Doherty has, sort of, visited this period before – the Kathryn Swinbrooke novels are set in 1471, after Henry VI loses the throne for good, and Dove Amongst The Hawks – probably my favourite of his standalone novels – is set six years after that and looks at the death of Henry. But here we are at the inception of the conflict, and despite what one reviewer on Amazon seems to think, Richard and Henry are bystanders to a tale that uses the conflict as a background rather than a focus.
The tale is divided into sections, focussing on four characters in rotation – Sevigny, Simon Roseblood, his son Raphael and his daughter Katherine. It’s a nice narrative structure that works well, mostly, although while I came to know Sevigny, Roseblood and Katherine well, Raphael didn’t seem as interesting as the other three. Having said that, this is a trilogy, and presumably he’ll have more to do further down the road. Simon’s other son Gabriel doesn’t get much page-time here either, and presumably he’ll become more prominent. Or get killed, obviously.
Because it’s a tale where things don’t necessarily go the way you’d expect. By having featured characters from both sides of the potential conflict, both of whom are more than capable of taking extreme measures when necessary, it’s unclear who is the villain and who is the hero of the piece, if such labels can be applied in such a story. There are a couple of murders – one a locked room – to get to the bottom of – although don’t buy this expecting a murder mystery as the focus of the story – and for a good while, it’s not clear who’s actually going to solve it.
As the book progresses, it becomes more and more involving – the opening (brief) section is necessarily an information dump so stick with it – and by then end of the book, I was very keen to know what happens next to our heroes/villains/whatevers.
As I said with Doherty’s earlier book The Fate Of Princes, don’t buy this if you’re on the lookout for a straight medieval mystery. But if you are a fan of medieval intrigue, and fancy a snapshot of life in the mid-fifteenth century – portrayed in the usual meticulous and colourful detail by the author – then this is the book for you. Highly Recommended and roll on book two!