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Exile: Lady Grace Mysteries    by Patricia Finney order for
by Patricia Finney
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have long been a fan of Patricia Finney's for her wonderful Irish historicals - A Shadow of Gulls and The Crow God - and Elizabethan historical mysteries such as Firedrake's Eye. This is my first venture into her YA series starring the Queen's Lady Pursuivant and Maid of Honor, Grace Cavendish. Exile is the fifth in the Lady Grace Mysteries series, aimed at middle school readers.

The story is narrated by Lady Grace herself, through entries in her daybooke. As this episode opens, the Court is astir and the Maids of Honor excited about the imminent arrival to the Greenwich Palace of Placentia of the exiled (and exotic) Banoo Yasmine of Sharakand. Her family have all been killed by a usurper and the Banoo seeks sanctuary (and financial help) from Queen Elizabeth. Grace's friend, acrobat Masou, tells her of the legendary snake men of Sharakand, who 'can twist and fold their bodies into incredible shapes.'

As surety for a loan from the Queen, the Banoo offers the legendary Heart of Kings ruby, only to discover that it has been stolen from her room overnight. Grace's friend, laundrymaid Ellie, is accused and only Grace and Masou believe in her innocence. They soon determine that only a snake man could have accessed the room in which the jewel was held, and go to great lengths (that add to Grace's reputation for clumsiness) to figure out who in the Sharakand entourage might be one of these talented contortionists.

As always, Patricia Finney writes an engaging mystery steeped in the Elizabethan era and in the daily life of a Queen's Maid of Honor. At the back is a handy Glossary of Elizabethan terms like comfit, a note on the Queen's jewels, an informative section on 'The Fact Behind the Fiction', and an excerpt from the next episode, Feud.

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