Another Review at MyShelf.Com

A Murder of Crows
Sir Robert Carey series #5

by P.F.†Chisholm
(aka Patricia Finney)


A Murder of Crows is, amongst fans of the genre, one of the most eagerly anticipated historical mysteries in a long while. I run a site dedicated to the genre and am active in a discussion group focused on it where plaintive pleas for a new Sir Robert Carey mystery have been a standard since the print dried a decade ago on the last one. Itís here now, and well worth the wait, although this is really more Sergeant Doddís story than Careyís. This is a great read in one of the more unique, well-written and well-researched series out there.

Sir Robert Carey was a real life historical figure, grandson of Henry VIII and "the other Boleyn girl," his mistress Mary Boleyn (history is a bit less definite about Henry being his biological grandfather than here). Most of this series is set on the Scots borders where he was Warden of the Marches, but this book and the prior one—A Plague of Angels (also reviewed on Myshelf)—take place in London. Events in this book are largely an extension of those from the prior one, making it that rare case where Iíd strongly recommend reading the prior book first. Itís not an absolute necessity, and it certainly doesnít have to be the whole series, but the plot here revolves around Dodd seeking revenge for his mistreatment in Angels and I was much happier after I set aside Crows long enough to go back and re-read Angels first.

Which is not to say thatís all there is to the story. Not even close. Marlowe and Shakespeare make appearances as both poets and intriguers. Careyís father may not think much of his sonís ability to handle finances, but when he needs help with a murdered corpse in his jurisdiction, he immediately turns to Sir Robert. Thereís a whole range of twisting, turning "change lobsters and dance" subplots around who is loyal to whom—no, who are they really loyal to—for how long, and who theyíve been betraying and why in between. Not to mention the chance to meet the one person who really scares Sir Robert, and all the questions involving the lawyer who eagerly takes Doddís case when the threat of retribution from on high has driven everyone else away.

The London setting is colorful, vividly real and overflowing with life. It also makes this an easier read than some of the earlier books, to my mind, because it means use of Scots dialect is limited to Dodd, while the other characters donít all have† similar sounding names differentiated mainly by nicknames. Because the dialect is unique to Dodd, itís also much more effective as an aid to characterization, making it clear just how far from home he is in ways that only begin with geography—a key element of his story here.

Highly recommended for a rollicking read that never stops and holds you rapt through every page.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
June 2010
Historical Mystery / London England 1592
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2010
© 2010