A Suspicion of Silver (Sir Robert Carey Series)

Written by P. F. Chisholm
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Real historical character Sir Robert Carey returns for his ninth adventure in Edinburgh during early 1593. There has been an attack on King James’s life.  The suspect to be rounded up is the dangerous (and only fictitious) scion of a real historical family–the Hochstetters—who come from Augsburg with their Anabaptist beliefs and generations-old mining skills to exploit the minerals under the soil at Keswick.  Their trove includes the Queen’s gold and something making them very rich and very secretive indeed.

Meanwhile, one of Carey’s henchmen has gone missing on the moors in circumstances that make his death seem likely.  But where is the body?  His widow will lose everything because they are childless after ten years of marriage.  Carey needs to solve this problem, too.  And there are the dead lakes and forests around the mining operation caused by kobolds—mine demons.  But that problem will have to wait for future generations.

Chisholm’s Glossary is as entertaining, erudite and educational as any part of the novel itself.  Turning the Latin text and exquisite woodcuts of the 1556 mining manual De Re Metallica into historical fiction is a brilliant idea.  I especially liked the giant bellows manned to keep fresh air flowing into the underground tunnels.  And the hints of more destruction to come in the form of developing explosives. I have only two reservations in recommending this novel.  The first is that the attack on the Scottish king happened in the previous book, so we are not inclined in the first pages to follow the story without that propellant.  We are not acquainted with all the characters from previous volumes, either. The second quibble is that the usual mystery constraints of crime, suspects and red herrings are not followed.  We know the culprit from the beginning, so this might better be billed as an Elizabethan thriller to match our expectations.  Neither of these should keep the reader away, however.