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Tidal Poole    by Karen Harper order for
Tidal Poole
by Karen Harper
Order:  USA  Can
Dell, 2001 (1999)
Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

There has recently been a resurgence of interest in historical mysteries. Often these books are written by authors enamored of a particular period, so they tend to be impeccably well-researched. However, they are not always engrossing as whodunits. Tidal Poole is an exception, doing a good job on both history and mystery. It is the second in a series starring Queen Elizabeth I as the sleuth. This follows in the tradition of mysteries featuring real life investigators, such as the Eleanor Roosevelt books written by her son. Harper's story is equally well-done and gives an excellent introduction to a fascinating woman and her times.

The book opens just as Elizabeth has ascended the throne at age 25. It gets off to a slow start and is initially confusing due to the many court intrigues and complex interrelationships. However, persisting is worthwhile. Harper depicts her queen as headstrong, with a sensual side, somewhat arrogant and vulnerable at the same time. In Harper's hands she seems very real. When one of the members of Elizabeth's large court is murdered, the queen becomes involved in solving the mystery. There are several well-written, very suspenseful sequences and a satisfactory conclusion to the puzzle.

Harper uses her research to paint a vivid picture of Elizabethan London, including both life at the royal court and that of the commoners. Her subsidiary characters are well-drawn such that readers will want to see how their lives develop in future books. An especially interesting pair is Bette and her mute son, 'anglers' who use a fishing pole to reach into windows and steal valuables. Another memorable character is the herb girl Meg. I look forward to meeting them again, and learning more about Elizabeth and her times through this fascinating series.

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