Ursula Blanchard, Sleuth

Elizabeth I Armada
Elizabeth I, The Armada Portrait, courtesy Woburn Abbey

Ursula Blanchard, sired on the wrong side of the blanket by Henry VIII, has her uses. While Elizabeth I doesn't officially acknowlege her half sister, Ursula carries out her bidding in delicate matters. However, in A Traitor's Tears, Ursula wishes to finally,  finally settle down on her estate and raise her infant son. Unfortunatley, it is not to be so. While visiting nieghbors, the wife is killed in her own garden. That this woman was an inveterate gossip who highly disapproved of Ursula's own familial arrangements, and that Ursula's manservant, Brockley, got into a tussle with the victim's servants on a previous visit helps nothing. Brockley is thrown into prison, a truly hellish place in Elizabethan times, and Ursula has to put her other estate, a gift from the queen, up as bail. The disappearance and subsequent murder of a cottager with a letter in code muddies the waters yet further, and Ursula and her servants (women very rarely traveled far alone) are hard on the scent, from London to Norfolk to Dover.

I feel spoiled by the recent  profusion of well-researched historical novels, and here is another one. The culprit is divined fairly early in the book, but it's the how and the proof that remains the mystery. While A Traitor's Tears is the eleventh in the series, it doesn't take much to get in the flow of things, or to be immersed in the atmosphere of the time. While she vows that her adventuring is over at the end of the book, I think we can see yet more of this able heroine.

Want more Elizabethan historical mysteries?

The Elizabeth I Mysteries by Karen Harper. Queen Elizabeth solves mysteries and uncovers plots against her rule in this long-running series.

Lady Susanna Appleton Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson. In slightly lighter fare, Lady Susanna Appleton, herbalist, deals with murders by poison and other means in another long-running series.

Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles by C.W. Gortner. Brendan Prescott serves as a double agent for Princess Elizabeth in this new series: The Tudor Secret and The Tudor Conspiracy.