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An Air of Treason by P.F. Chisholm

P.F. Chisholm is the pseudonym of well-known British mystery and historical crime writer, Patricia Finney.  “An Air of Treason” is the sixth in her Sir Robert Carey Mystery” series set in Elizabethan England and it is a swash-buckling thriller of an historical mystery.

Sir Robert Carey is the youngest son of the illegitimate son of Henry VIII and therefore the half-brother of Queen Elizabeth I.  Carey is forced to make his way in the world as a courtier and soldier who is sometimes asked by the Queen to solve knotty murder mystery.  In an “Air of Treason” the Queen inveigles upon Carey to revisit the 30 year old murder of Elizabeth’s former lover’s wife Amy Robsart Dudley which occurred in 1560 at Dudley’s estate near Oxford.  What Carey finds confirms that a murder occurred; her death was no accident.  It also puts into question whether Carey’s father and/or the Queen herself were behind the murder.  Obviously, accusing the queen of murder would be an act of treason, so Sir Robert must tread very gently around solving this cold case crime.

An Air of Treason” literally transports the reader back to the 16th century.  Many of the characters were real historic figures and Chisholm/Finney has a very thorough understanding of what it was like to live in the 16th century and to interact with these historic figures. There are many others added to the story who are probably fictional, but are very life-like, interesting characters.  They include Carey’s henchmen, Dodd and “Tyndale,” and members of the gang of former soldiers who rob and take Dodd prisoner.  “Jeronimo” the former Spanish ambassador’s son is among that band of disgruntled soldiers who try to take advantage of Dodd’s connection to Carey.

One lose end that bothers me is that Carey is poisoned early on in the book, and yet he spends almost no time trying to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill him and almost all of his time trying to solve the 30 year old murder case for the Queen.  At the end of the book we know that Tyndale is one of the people sent by some unknown enemy to kill Carey, and yet as far as we can tell, he has not made a move yet.  I assume that some of these loose ends will be tied up in a future book in the Sir Robert Carey series.  It just seems curious that this loose end would be left undone at the end of this book.

Elizabethan mystery lovers will love “An Air of Treason,” despite the unsettling unfinished nature of one of the plot threads.

Liz Nichols

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