As always, the seventh book in Harper's series is well-researched, and the author is very true to the events of the time. Elizabeth was one of the first monarchs to realize that grand and symbolic portraits were good PR. She wanted them to speak of her virtues and power to a broad audience.

In 1656, Elizabeth I has found three artists to paint her portrait, the most pleasing of which will be copied as the official one. Contention among the three is further exacerbated when young Gil Sharpe, a favorite of Elizabeth, returns from studying art in Italy. Elizabeth saved Gil from a life of crime when she became his patron after he showed artistic flair as a child. Now Gil is hiding a secret that he believes could get him killed.

When a tent occupied by one of the painters burns—killing both the painter and his servant—the queen learns it is foul play. The tent opening was laced from the outside, preventing any escape attempt. Elizabeth then summons her "privy council," upon whom she relies for advice. When other unusual fires occur, Dr. Dee, a scientist in the council, advises Elizabeth that they were started with mirrors.

(Feb., 273 pp., $23.95)
Reviewed by: 
Lorraine Gelly