Dark Queen Watching (2021) by Paul Doherty

We are the Garduna and we answer to no one.

November 1471, and Margaret Beaufort is in trouble. Edward of York is secure on the English throne, her son, Henry Tudor, is in exile in Brittany and her husband, her primary source of protection, is dead. While she searches for some way to reclaim her security – and her power – the Garduna, a powerful band of Spanish mercenaries arrive in England.

The Garduna are ruthless and deadly, willing to kill whoever gets in their way. But who has hired them and why? Are they behind the murder of a messenger in Margaret’s house, poisoned inside a locked with no trace of the source of the poison? Or is there another enemy stalking Margaret, an enemy much closer to home?

This is the third book – after Dark Queen Rising and Dark Queen Waiting – featuring Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future King Henry VII. At this stage in the Wars of the Roses, the House of Lancaster is waning, with Margaret being their main hope of a return to the throne. As such her many enemies are desperate to depose her.

This series is a marriage of historical intrigue and traditional mystery, and does an excellent job of both. The plans of the Garduna (and the French secret intelligence agents as well) are puzzling and keep the reader guessing, both as to who hired them and what they are actually up to, with the truth making good use of the historical setting. The plot twists and turns all over the place, with some genuine surprises. The locked room poisoning also has a delightfully simple solution that I should have spotted but I missed it by a mile.

I would say that the one issue with the book is that the mystery plot is put to one side for a good chunk of the narrative only to be resolved in the final sections. To be honest, good as that plot section is, I enjoyed the historical thriller element of it just as much. Both sections are strong, they just seemed a little disjointed.

Regardless, any new book (or old one, to be honest) from Paul is always worth the time of anyone with any interest in historical mysteries, and this Margaret Beaufort series should not be overshadowed by the Hugh Corbett and Brother Athelstan books. Definitely worth your time.

Dark Queen Watching is out on November 1st 2021 from Severn House. Many thanks to the publishers for the review e-copy.

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