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by Karen Harper
Thomas Dunne Books, October 2003
287 pages
ISBN: 0312301758

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lady Kat Ashley has been with Queen Elizabeth for 25 years. Elizabeth realizes that the ailing Kat may not be with her much longer and decides to have an old fashioned holiday. She declares to the people of London that they "shall have a Yuletide festival of old, even with mummings" and if the Thames freezes over, a Frost Fair.

Part of the Yuletide celebration is having new liveries made for the castle staff. Elizabeth is looking forward to delivering some of them herself. When she goes to present the kitchen liveries one of the staff members, Hodge Thatcher, is missing. Thatcher is the Dresser of the Queen's Privy Kitchens, the man who reapplies the peacock feathers to the peacock after the bird has been roasted. Elizabeth enters Thatcher's workroom looking for him and finds his body hanging from the ceiling -- a corpse that looks like part man and part bird. Why was Thatcher killed? What kind of message is the killer sending to Elizabeth and her court? Elizabeth assembles her Privy Plot Council (a Council made up of servants as well as courtiers she can trust) to help her solve Thatcher's murder. At this joyous time of the year, Elizabeth soon finds herself deep in the middle of politics and a murder investigation. She finds herself wondering if she can trust her friends any more than she can her enemies as she tries to keep the spirit of the holidays from being killed along with anyone else.

Karen Harper is a skillful writer who successfully brings history and mystery together in this holiday tale. Harper places actual historical events into each novel. In this case it is that on "December 21, 1564, the Thames froze solid for the first time in years, and it is recorded that the queen walked on it." In THE QUEEN'S CHRISTMAS each chapter begins with a holiday recipe or instructions for decorations that would have been found in Elizabethan England. Elizabeth was a brilliant queen and it is not hard to fathom that she would have made an equally brilliant sleuth. Harper gives us a taste of the political intrigue surrounding Elizabeth. An interesting cast of characters mingle in all this intrigue, but I'm afraid all these characters might be confusing for a reader who is new to this series.

Released just in time for the coming holidays, THE QUEENE'S CHRISTMAS: An Elizabeth I Mystery, the sixth book in this series, will make a wonderful gift for fans of Harper and Elizabeth.

Reviewed by Lane Wright, November 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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