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by Peg Herring
Five Star, January 2010
345 pages
ISBN: 1594148422

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Women are being killed in London, left in nun's garb and beheaded. The first are prostitutes, so nobody really cares. When a woman of some social stature is killed in the same manner, Princess Elizabeth gets involved. She has as her eyes and ears young Simon, son of a physician, available in part because one arm is deformed. She also has Hugh, a captain in her father's Welch Guard.

These are perilous times. Henry VIII is on his last wife, definitely not a well man, and subject to mood swings probably directly connected to the chronic pain he endures. His son is not well, his daughters remind him of personal and political decisions that may or may not have been wise. He trusts no one; this dubious gift has been handed down to all his children. Elizabeth must be discreet and devious if she is to do even a portion of what she would like.

As Simon and Hugh collect information, many suspects begin to appear. One of the subtle marvels is Herring's ability to bring contemporary theories about serial killers to the minds of these sleuths without making it seem a stretch. The thought processes are rational, the conclusions coherent, the concepts probably not typical for the time period. Still, it makes sense as Herring writes it.

Herring also conveys the complexities of court life with a deft hand. Catharine Parr, the last of Elizabeth's stepmothers, walks a very thin line and is all too conscious of the women who preceded her. The relationship between Elizabeth and her sister Mary is touchy, as one might imagine, given the circumstances.

While HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER is not technically a romance, the growing attraction between Simon and one of Elizabeth's household is a nice sub-plot, and one would hope to see more of this in further books. While Elizabeth is obviously constrained by virtue of rank, sex, and relationship to power, one can see in her the attributes that made her a remarkable queen. All in all, Herring has written a well-crafted mystery set in one of the most dangerous times in English history.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, September 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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