Dark Queen Wary (2023) by Paul Doherty

1472, and Edward IV’s position on the throne of England is all but secure – all except for Henry Tudor, in exile abroad, but still casting a shadow over Edward. But Edward has a plan to finally put paid to his rival. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, is introduced to her “son” – in truth an imposter brought into the picture to undermine her position and that of her true son – but Edward’s plans go far beyond that.

Margaret and her entourage, in particular her right-hand man Christopher Urswicke, are invited to the Moor, the seat of George Neville, where the King is due to visit, but the Moor is hardly the haven it appears to be. An angel of chaos, the mysterious Achitophel, haunts the place, and a party of soldiers are being killed one by one, in manners simulating the five wounds suffered by Christ. What is Edward’s plan, and is Achitophel working for or against it? And who will still be left standing when it comes to fruition?

At the moment, Paul Doherty seems to be writing three series – old favourites Brother Athelstan and Hugh Corbett and this one which seems to fly somewhat under the radar, which is a bit of a shame as I’m finding them fascinating reads. This is the fourth of the Dark Queen series, and they take a slightly different approach from Paul’s other books. Yes, there’s a bucketload of murder and mystery, but there’s more political intrigue in this series as Margaret Beaufort and Edward IV dance around each other, trying to secure their positions while undermining the other.

There’s a lot going on here and the pace never slackens. The murders are nicely gruesome without turning the stomach, and there’s a locked room towards the end – although it’s a very simple one. Effective, nonetheless, but simple.

One of the interesting things here is that Paul balances the lead role duties more than in earlier books. We never see inside Margaret’s head, but we do spend more time with her other ally, the somewhat rougher Reginald Bray, who proves to be just as effective as Urswicke. By having recurring villains, such as Urswicke’s father, as well as the characters unique to this one, there’s more of an ongoing story here than in the other series. Not that it can’t be read out of order, but I think the reader will get more out of the series if they do.

All in all, a hugely enjoyable read, just what I needed.

Dark Queen Wary will be released by Severn House on 7th March 2023. Many thanks for the review copy.

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