Saturday, October 13, 2018

ARC Review: A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe

A Murder By Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery
Author: Suzanne M. Wolfe
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (October 9, 2018)

Description: When a brutal murder threatens the sanctity of the Elizabethan court, it’s up to a hot-tempered spy to save the day.

The court of Elizabeth I is no stranger to plotting and intrigue, but the royal retinue is thrown into chaos when the Queen’s youngest and sweetest lady-in-waiting is murdered, her body left on the high altar of the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace. Solving the murder will require the cunning and savvy possessed by only one man. Enter Nicholas Holt, younger brother of the Earl of Blackwell―spy, rake, and owner of the infamous Black Sheep tavern in the seedy district of Bankside. Nick quickly learns that working for the Queen is a mixed blessing. Elizabeth―salty-tongued, vain, and fiercely intelligent―can, with a glance, either reward Nick with a purse of gold or have his head forcibly removed.

When a second lady-in-waiting is slain at Whitehall, the court once again reels with shock and dismay. On the trail of a diabolical killer, Nick and his faithful sidekick―an enormous Irish Wolfhound named Hector―are treading on treacherous ground, and only the killer’s head on a platter can keep them in the Queen’s good graces.

My Thoughts: The Honorable Nicholas Holt is called in by Queen Elizabeth I when the body of her newest lady-in-waiting is found murdered and posed on the altar of the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace. Nick is a spy, a rake, the owner of a bar in a seedy part of London, and the younger brother of the Earl of Blackwell. He has mostly been working in Europe after being blackmailed into spying for the queen by Sir Robert Cecil because of his family's Catholic past.

Nick, along with his friend John and his wolfhound Hector, find a variety of clues but no real leads. When a second lady-in-waiting is also found murdered, Elizabeth gives Nick a deadline to solve the crimes.

As Nick interviews people from those of the highest rank to a lowly Cinder who builds the fires in the State rooms, we get a wonderful picture of London and court life in the time of Elizabeth I. We also learn about political tensions of the time as the Puritans are gaining power and Elizabeth is insecure on her throne. We also see the  prejudice that exists regarding Jews since two of Nick's best friends are Jewish doctors Eli and Rivkah who are twins who escaped from Spain and are living in London. As Eli says, "We are ever history's scapegoats."

I enjoyed the mystery and the historical setting. I liked the combination of real and fictional characters. Both Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are friends and hang out at Nick's tavern where they argue about plays and Shakespeare tries out dialog that will someday be part of his plays.

Nick was an interesting, well-rounded character. I look forward to reading more of his adventures.

Favorite Quote:
A jubilant din of church bells greeted Nick as he left the shop and stepped back onto the street. Midday. A throwback to medieval times, when bells reminded the faithful of the liturgy of the hours, they new served as Londoners' timepieces, telling them when to rise, when to eat, when to sleep. And in the event of fire, an ever-present specter in a predominantly timber-built city, where house stood cheek by jowl, when to rush out into the streets with buckets of water or sand. This great discordant music with its myriad chimes of high and low, long and short, flat and true, was the voice of London. Nick loved it with a passion.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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