Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Murder in the Queen's Garden by Amanda Carmack

Murder in the Queen's Garden
Author:  Amanda Carmack
Series:  An Elizabethan Mystery 3
Publisher:  Signet, February 3, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451415134 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

The author of Murder at Westminster Abbey and Murder at Hatfield House is back with an absorbing and surprising new Elizabethan Mystery…

1559. Elizabeth has been on the throne for six months, and life in England seems newly golden. But for the Royal Court, murder and betrayal are foretold in the stars….

Kate Haywood, the young queen’s personal musician, has been keeping busy playing for a merry round of summer parties where famed astrologer Dr. John Dee and his fantastic horoscopes are all the rage. However, Elizabeth’s favorite stargazer fails to predict the discovery of a skeleton in the queen’s garden—and that the victim’s identity will call his own innocence into question.

When the doctor’s pupil is the victim of a second murder, the concerned queen enlists her trusted Kate to clear the accused killer of wrongdoing. But will the stars align to light Kate’s path through a tangled thicket of treachery to save Elizabeth’s prized astrologer and protect the queen from those who threaten her reign?

Jennifer's Review

The third installment of Amanda Carmack’s Elizabethan Mystery series is titled Murder in the Queen’s Garden and is set only six months into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen and her court are on a traditional summer progress to escape the heat of London, and are settling into a routine of music and frivolity at her late father’s famed country residence, Nonsuch Palace. Kate Haywood, the queen’s personal musician and sometime spy is also in attendance, and has the misfortune to be among those who find a decayed skeleton, buried long ago and unearthed by heavy rains, on the idyllic palace grounds. Soon another body, this one newly murdered, is found soon after, and causes Kate, who will do anything to keep the queen safe, to race across the countryside trying to find a killer who may have a much higher target in mind.

Kate is ever vigilant in watching over her beloved Queen Elizabeth. She uses her extraordinary powers of observation and keen intellect, along with her innate curiosity to help ensure the queen’s safety. She is becoming a skilled courtier with the help of Lady Anne Godwin and Mistress Violet Roland, two new characters that have joined the queen’s household since the last novel in the series, and have become fast friends with the faithful Kate. Lady Anne is a pleasant but reticent character, which creates an interesting juxtaposition with Violet, who is portrayed as a rather naïve and lighthearted young woman. Kate is pleasantly surprised to find two eligible suitors arrive at Nonsuch. Rob Cartman, who is often likened to a golden god, has arrived to entertain the queen with his troupe of actors. Anthony Elias, aspiring attorney and long time friend of Kate’s has also arrived unexpectedly and causes Kate’s heart to flutter with his classical dark looks and steadfast support. Neither man overtly pursues the lovely Kate, but each harbors deep feelings for her and vow to help her in her quest for justice when a young man, who Kate feels is innocent, is accused of the current murder. We also see a multitude of historical figures supporting the story. The author gives such people as Sir Robert Dudley, William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s Boleyn relatives, and famed court astrologer, Dr. John Dee, life and depth that enhance the plot of the mystery.

Descriptions of the elaborate palace and garden settings, as well as the finer points of court dress and etiquette, are superbly done and are obviously well researched, adding strength to the story. The mystery focuses on crimes committed almost two decades apart, yet the plotline flows nicely and the connections between them are fully explored. By incorporating real historical figures into her novels, Carmack gives the reader tantalizing possible motivations of such well known people. She creates a stunningly complex world of court intrigues interspersed with budding romances and old family ties that are all well drawn and fascinating. I highly recommend this series to any reader who loves lush period detail and intricate mysteries.


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