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by Karen Harper
St Martin's Minotaur, November 2007
240 pages
ISBN: 0312947712

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When authors use real-life historical characters as sleuths it can be rather disconcerting, especially when it is hardly feasible that they would have undertaken this role in real life. They can either get the characterisation down pat or they manage to make a mess of it. This is the situation that we have with THE HOODED HAWKE, the ninth in the series by Karen Harper to feature Queen Elizabeth I as a sleuth.

As is her common practice Queen Elizabeth I is making what has become known as her stately 'summer progress' through the counties. It is also an opportunity for her to escape not only the Spanish hostility at sea but also the political battles surrounding her in England especially those involving Mary Queen of Scots and the rebellious Lords in the northern part of the country.

Not long after she begins this annual ritual then her falconer is killed not too far away from her. But is Elizabeth the intended victim or could it be her current ally Sir Francis Drake. When a further attempt is made, this time on her herbalist, the Queen believes that there is a bigger conspiracy afoot and decides that some investigation is needed on her part.

There are, however, a great number of people who could be behind the incidents, the foremost of course being Mary, Queen of Scots whose hatred of Elizabeth is well known, and also her cousin the Duke of Norfolk. The situation is even endangering her relationship with her current favourite Robert Dudley. The Queen enlists the help of her Privy Council, Sir Francis Drake and a number of others in her attempt to find who is behind the attacks.

THE HOODED HAWKE is an enjoyable read with believable period detail and some excellent characterisation. The author has used a turbulent period in English history to good effect along side all the elements of what is a good mystery. The only jarring point is whether or not the reader can actually conceive and accept the fact that there is a possibility Elizabeth I would have the time or ability to be a sleuth.

Queen Elizabeth I as a sleuth is rather disconcerting and somewhat off-putting. It is more likely that it would be her courtiers that would have done the sleuthing on her behalf. Notwithstanding the use of a rather unique sleuth the intricacy of court life and the way in which it constantly intrudes it is not used heavy-handedly in this novel.

If you can suspend disbelief and accept the hypothesis of Queen Elizabeth being a sleuth then you will find that THE HOODED HAWKE is a rather amusing and interesting read that is well worth spending time with.

Reviewed by Ayo Onatade, December 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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