Monday, March 10, 2014

The Dance of Death

Roger the Chapman began solving mysteries at the behest of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Kate Sedley has framed her novels as the memoirs of an old man countering the then-current Tudor propaganda against his occasional patron.  Sedley - and Roger - have reached 1482, a year before Richard III became king and three years before he died in battle.  Perhaps that means she's going to wind down the series, or maybe Roger will return to solving ordinary, non-political mysteries.

I hope it's the latter.  The Dance of Death is the second consecutive (and third of the last four) Roger the Chapman novel to involve Richard and political intrigue.  It's the best of those three, but I miss Roger's life in Bristol with Adela and their children.  Roger does as well, which is why Richard's spymaster Timothy Plummer intercepts Roger's message to his family to force Roger to perform one more mission.   Actually, he's on two separate missions, the first posing as the husband of a half-french woman whose cousin has information regarding the French King's attempts to void the engagement between the Dauphin and Elizabeth of York.  The second verges on treason; Richard has asked him to find evidence that Edward IV is illegitimate and that their mother was unfaithful.  Disguised as a wealthy merchant and his wife, they travel to France accompanied by one of Richard's men and Phillip Lamprey, an old friend of Roger's.

Sedley devotes most of The Dance of Death to the journey from London to Paris, seemingly followed by an unhappily married couple, a jeweler, and a flirtatious courtier and leaves the mystery to the final few pages.  Maybe that's why she got me - the killer's identity surprised me, even though I'd seen all the clues.  After a relatively disappointing installment, Sedley produced a satisfying and enjoyable mystery.  Unfortunately, I may have to miss the next few installments.  I hadn't ordered from in a few years and during that time, her publisher apparently shrank the print runs in favor of ebooks which are not available in the US.  My next trip to London may include scouring the city for used book store (or maybe curling up in a library, devouring the two books between The Dance of Death and the one I just ordered).

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