A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery, by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Suzanne M. Wolfe, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Suzanne M. Wolfe takes the reader into the darker sides of the Elizabethan Court with this murder mystery, using a great deal of detail to bring out the unique flavour of the time. Queen Elizabeth has been reigning over England for close to three decades and has earned the favour of many, both within her Court and in the general public. When the youngest of the ladies-in-waiting is murdered, the Court is abuzz with gossip and Her Majesty is enraged. Found on the high alter of a church, the killer must surely have been seeking to make a statement like no other. Elizabeth turns to the one man she feels is up for the task of locating the killer and bringing them to justice, Nicholas Holt. A spy in his own right, Holt will be able to use his deceptive ways to lure information out of many in order to quickly bring the case to a close. With his connections to Court and possessing a seedy background, Holt will stop at nothing to bring the killer before Elizabeth. However, this might be a more difficult task than first thought, as Her Majesty is far from regal in its traditional form and seeks immediate answers. When a second lady-in-waiting is slain, Holt knows that he is running out of time. If he cannot produce the killer soon, it will be his head on a platter before Elizabeth. Working every angle, Holt travels to ascertain not only clues but motive, remaining as covert as possible. Wolfe delivers an interesting mystery that is sure to pique the attention of some who enjoy their murder mysteries in a historic setting.

This is my first experience with Wolfe and her writing, which left me eager to see what sentiments came as I read this piece. She has a wonderful attention to detail and brings out that 16th century flavour in her story without leaving the reader too bogged down in references or phrasing. That being said, my mind could not grasp the entirety of the story, as I sought something a bit quicker and that would pull me in. Her character development is decent, as Nicholas Holt is painted to be a wonderfully dedicated man, even if he has a background that might be anything but pure. Using a handful of supporting characters, including Elizabeth I, proved useful, not only to advance the story, but also to add strength to the setting. While the story is one of mystery with a peppering of espionage, Wolfe dutifully uses some of the historical goings-on of the time to add to the potential motive. With England standing as a Protestant stronghold, might the Catholics have perpetrated this to poke at Elizabeth? Could the anti-Semitic sentiments of the time be the basis for these murders? All this, keenly woven into a narrative that flows with ease and keeps the reader guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical angle, even if the story did not pull me in as much as I would have liked. Wolfe is to be commended for her attention to detail, which will surely appease many of those who seek to read this book.

Kudos, Madam Wolfe, on an interesting tale. I trust that many will enjoy this piece, for it certainly has much to offer the curious reader.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons