In this installment of Harper's Queen Elizabeth I series, Karen Harper immerses the reader in the monarch's 16th-century world with a realism that brings the characters to life. The austere young queen seems as human as all the other characters, as she learns to rely on her own wits to possibly save her life and the lives of those closest to her.

Elizabeth discovers that someone is out to ruin her Christmas celebrations of 1564, when her cook, Hodge Thatcher, is found murdered.

Not only was he slain, his body was trussed up to look like a peacock. And this is only the first of numerous odd happenings—a dinner plate appears with a fox's head instead of a boar's, and Elizabeth's beloved Robin, Earl of Leicester, is bound naked in a closet. A very hands-on detective, Elizabeth tries to figure out who close to her would participate in such mocking crimes.

With such a puzzling mystery, she feels that she can't trust anyone, not even Robin.

(Oct. '03, 281 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick