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Conspiracy: Lady Grace Mysteries    by Patricia Finney order for
by Patricia Finney
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Sunrise approaches in 1569 as the staff disassemble furnishings, and Lady Sarah begins her journal entries: 'I can see the carts waiting by torchlight, with the horses still munching in their nosebags and stamping their huge hairy feet.' The Royal Court prepares for a progress (an informative 'Note About Royal Progresses' is included at the end of the book) from Oxey Hall to Kenilworth, chief residence of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

Dudley is Master of Queen's Horse and overseer of the summer revels. It is well known that the Earl and Queen Elizabeth have been romantically attached since Elizabeth was a Princess imprisoned in the Tower of London by her older sister Mary. At that time, Dudley was married to Amy Robsart, whose suspicious death created quite a scandal. An additional reason for the Kenilworth visit is to meet the Queen's latest suitor, His Grace Prince Sven of Sweden. Amidst serious affairs, there are lighter moments as Ellie (laundress, friend and sometimes tiring woman to Lady Grace), argues that Sven is 'a foreigner, ain't he? ... All foreigners 'ave tails'. Grace replies, 'But Ellie, if that's true, then Masou the tumbler would have one'. Masou's reaction? 'Of course I don't ... Where would I put it when I sat down?'

The Royal summer brings mysterious happenings and narrow escapes for the Queen. The saddle on the Queen's horse is tampered with, and there are other near misses. Lady Grace senses a conspiracy afoot, and is instructed by her Queen - 'Yes, my dear Lady Pursuivant investigate. Though no wild adventures, please. It may be that some enemy of the Earl of Leicester's desires to discredit him, and has thus conspired to sabotage the entertainments.' Sarah asks that Ellie be allowed to assist her with the investigation. Rumors abound as to who might want to harm Her Highness. Is it Scottish spies, or the Earl? A revenge of the Robsart family? Could it be the Secretary to the Queen's Council, Sir William Cecil, who despises the Earl? Perchance is it a ploy on the part of the suitor from Sweden?

In Conspiracy, the latest (following Assassin, and Betrayal) in this engaging series, Patricia Finney warms the pages by illuminating the Queen, and placing Her at the center of the mystery. I found this third episode the best and most suspenseful in the series to date.

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