Murder at Westminster Abbey
If you’ve read many of my reviews and blogs, you’ve probably figured out that I love historical romance and historical fiction. Even though I have fewer go-to authors in historical mystery, that’s a genre I tend to love as well, and if Murder at Westminster Abbey is anything to go by, I just may have another go-to mystery author to add to my list.
One thing that immediately catches one’s attention in this book is the heroine. The book is set in England, but our lead is not an aristocrat. Kate Haywood is a musician’s daughter and a musician herself. Her father served as Catherine Parr’s chief musician before accompanying Elizabeth and her household. Now, as Elizabeth is about to ascend to the throne in her own right, Kate finds herself in the midst of excitement but also all manner of intrigue.
The English court is awash in plotting as various countries try to see which way the new Queen Elizabeth will view certain issues and ally herself with others – and of course they try to influence it. In addition, various noble families vie for position and this plays out in everything from analysis of positions handed to ladies-in-waiting to careful observation of who speaks to whom at court. And added into all of this court tension is murder.
Kate’s position as a musician is a rare one for a woman, and so she finds herself often among the ladies in waiting, the only other major group of women besides the servants. There she befriends Lady Mary Everley, a young woman whose family seeks to better its fortunes – perhaps in part by marrying her off. It is obvious that Mary has some secrets that she holds back from Kate, secrets that become all the more important when Mary is killed during the coronation celebrations.
In some ways, Kate’s position as a musician makes her the perfect lead character for this story. As the mystery unfolds, it’s quickly apparent that solving this crime will require someone able to move between the court and the common folk. Kate is not aristocratic, but enjoys a certain level of acceptance at court. However, since her position is one of service to the queen, she can also mingle among the working classes without drawing too much attention. And in her travels, Kate learns that Mary’s killing bears a certain resemblance to other killings happening in London. It seems more than 1 young woman with pale skin and red hair has been brutally killed.
Sometimes Kate seemed a little too perfectly positioned for her investigations, but I still enjoyed the story overall. Carmack works in all kinds of period details that make the world of the book come alive, and that livened up the reading experience considerably. In terms of construction, some of the foreshadowing in this mystery is a little heavy-handed, but there are enough surprises in here to keep readers turning pages.
And then there’s the romance. Or perhaps I should say, the hint of romance. Anthony Elias, a lawyer’s apprentice and friend to Kate who appeared in the first book in the series, makes his reappearance here. The author definitely drops hints of romance into the plot, and there is obviously something developing between them. I only wished we could have gotten a little bit more than a hint of attraction and the preview of what could be conflict between them.
While it could have flowed a little better, Murder at Westminster Abbey is an entertaining read. I enjoyed wandering through the 16th century with Kate Haywood and I would gladly do it again.