October 1471, and Edward of York sits on the throne of England, flanked by his brothers, Clarence and Richard. Meanwhile Margaret Beaufort sits at court, plotting for the day that her son, Henry Tudor, can return to England to claim the throne for her family once again. But plans are afoot at court to stop Margaret’s plans ever coming to fruition.
A group of her followers, former Welsh students, are scattered across London, protected by the sanctuary of various troops. But when one of them is brutally murdered – inside a church locked and bolted from the inside – they are gathered and, in the tradition of those seeking sanctuary, made to walk to the coast and then take a boat overseas. But with a devilish murderer stalking the party and death waiting in the form of two warships if they even get to the boat, it falls to Margaret’s closest ally and son of her most persistent foe, Christopher Urswicke to find a way to save Margaret and her allies.
This is the second book, following Dark Queen Rising, in Paul’s latest series of historical mysteries. Those who read the first one will recall that it was more of an historical thriller rather than a mystery – the murder occurs quite late in the day in that one – but this one is much closer to Paul’s more traditional structure, with a locked room murder front and centre at the beginning of the tale. The narrative is still more steeped in historical espionage and plotting than in his other series, and there are many twists and turns along the way. There are quite a few threads that don’t play out the way the reader might expect them to – the fate of one particular character sticks in the mind – and there is a distinct feeling that things might not turn out that well for the leads. I suppose that’s one of the problems of using real characters – we know Henry Tudor will take the throne after Bosworth Field, but we are far enough away from that event that I, certainly have little idea of the twists and turns along the way.
The mystery itself is good and well-structured, but the killer is quite guessable – except that I didn’t, as Paul’s efforts with the conspiracy elements formed a spell-binding distraction.
Probably not the purest mystery that Paul has ever written, but an extremely satisfying book nonetheless, the espionage element and plotting on both sides creating a riveting read. Dark Queen Waiting is out at the end of the month from Severn House, and the preceding title, Dark Queen Rising came out in August from Black Thorn Books.