Pan Macmillan (UK) Crime - October 2001
ISBN: 033390415X - Hardback
Historical Crime - 1566, Scotland

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde,
Buy a UK Copy

Novels about Mary, Queen of Scots are legion but this book is better than many at recreating the fragile, doomed Queen and her milieu - even if there are rather a lot of mentions that this is the calm before the storm. You can almost smell the miasma of old stone castles and feel the fear that one wrong step will end in the Tollbooth but then Alanna Knight is no stranger to atmospheric whodunits being the creator of the Inspector Faro series and now presenting her readers with the first of a new series. A young lad who has just rescued him from a murderous woman, wielding a jewelled dagger, stops Lord James Bothwell one evening and is rewarded before disappearing. Other events follow - is somebody trying to kill him, or is their target the Queen herself? He has left too many wronged women behind him and so there are rather a lot of suspects but his mistress, the delightfully independent "Wizard Lady of Branxholm" Janet Beaton has a mysterious new servant who can aid him in his quest for the truth. Enigmatic steward Tam Eildor is suffering from amnesia but has glimpses of the future, so who better to try and untangle such a plot?

Knight lays the atmosphere on with a trowel and there is a distinctly gothic touch about this mystery. Plenty of history too which takes up more of the book than the rather desultory and spun-out investigation but this is history that comes to full-blooded life and somehow the whole thing stays in the mind long afterwards. Risings before dawn to visit island monasteries, Kirk O'Fields, the doomed lives of Mary, Darnley and Bothwell all make for a compelling read - pity about the old time-worn device of amnesia though.


© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved