Her Highness’ First Murder

Her Highness' First MurderHer Highness’ First Murder by Peg Herring

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Simon & Elizabeth Mystery : Book One.
Setting: Hampstead Castle, London
Time: 1546

Main characters: Elizabeth Tudor (daughter of Henry VIII, future Elizabeth I, Queen of England) – age 13; Simon Malden, son of the court physician at Hampstead Castle, age 14; Hugh Bellows, captain of the Welsh Guard.

First paragraph, Chapter One: Simon heard the cries as they climbed the steep hill to the castle. Screams vibrated with pain and panic, fluctuating between wordless shrieks and “No, don’t!” repeated several times. His father, striding ahead with his soft bag over one shoulder, seemed unaware, but Simon cringed. Despite daily encounters with people in pain, the physician’s son could not become inured to it.

Favorite line: On the way home Elizabeth ignored Bess’ comments on women who waved goodbye by use of a dog’s paw. (p. 115)

This isn’t marketed as young adult, but with two teen-aged protagonists it certainly could be. The language is simple and direct, somewhat like a cozy mystery. Although the murders are gruesome and a couple of the victims are prostitutes, there is no gratuitous violence or sex. The author has clearly done a lot of historical research and I like the way she works details into the plot about clothing, food, descriptions of places, etc. in such a way that it is easy to visualize being there. She has a subtle sense of humor that I enjoyed very much (see favorite line above). Elizabeth is mature beyond her 13 years, and the author lets us know of the queen she will become through her introspection. As a mystery, I was kept guessing. We follow the clues along with Elizabeth and Simon, and we know what they know when they know it. No sudden twist of plot or resolution that comes out of nowhere. I really look forward to reading more of this series.

Description: When headless corpses begin appearing on the streets of London, Elizabeth Tudor is as shocked as everyone else. When one of her own ladies is murdered, Elizabeth joins with new friend Simon Maldon to find the killer. Henry VIII, also shocked by the murders assigns one of his Welsh guardsmen, Hugh, to investigate, since the women are dressed as nuns and might signal new religious troubles. Suspects include a madman, a courtier, a reformer, a well-known criminal, and others, even Elizabeth’s castellan. Simon, discovering that he is good at the art of disguise, plays various parts as he works at narrowing the list. Elizabeth’s part in the investigation is kept secret from the king, who would certainly not approve. But it cannot be kept secret from the killer, and in the end, he turns his attention to them. Simon, Elizabeth, and Hugh face a murderer who is beyond caring how many die, as long as he gets what he wants.

About the author: Peg Herring is a writer of plays, mysteries, and romance who once taught high school language arts and history. In her spare time she travels with her husband of many decades, gardens, directs choral groups, and works to keep her hundred-year-old home from crumbling away.

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