What originally began as a three-star book quickly became a four-star book as Fiona Buckley plunged me into a wonderful, immersive mystery set in Elizabethan England. This is my first Ursula Blanchard mystery, but I definitely want to read more. It has everything one could demand from a mystery: high stakes, complex antagonists, potential for tragedy, and a daring last-minute attempt to set things aright. Likewise, it satisfies my desire for a good piece of historical fiction into which I can sink my teeth. Elizabethan England is one of my favourite milieux, and Buckley captures the religious, political, and social turmoil from the perspective of an educated woman.
My first impression of the protagonist was that she complained far too much and could be a touch dramatic. But I enjoyed her frank evaluations of other people and her ability to plot and reason. Buckley handles the first person perspective well; Ursula provides tantalizing foreshadowing that made me turn page after page. Thanks to her narration, I empathized with her feelings regarding the plight of her ward and the plot to free Mary Stuart.
As for the mystery, it was very entertaining. Buckley manages to mix in just the right ratio of predictability to twists to keep me reading. Mysteries that are entirely too predictable are no fun. However, it's always nice to be able to see one or two things coming, heightening one's anticipation for the final confrontation.
And I certainly was not disappointed! The climax of this book was one of the most satisfying I've read in awhile. The protagonist pulls the "ol' switcheroo" while her ward is in danger, showing a commendable determination and strength of character. A couple of predictable developments and a few twists later, the story resolves and the mystery has been explained. I feel neither cheated nor patronized; in fact, it was an excellent ride.