Dark Queen Watching (A Margaret Beaufort Mystery, 3)

Written by Paul Doherty
Review by Fiona Alison

Doherty sweeps readers into the dark political intrigues of mediaeval England as the widowed Margaret Beaufort, last of the once-powerful Beaufort family, is beset by enemies. Her son, young Henry Tudor, is smuggled into England by his uncle and is sheltering in disguise at Chertsey Abbey. Margaret, accompanied by faithful retainers Christopher Urswicke and Reginald Bray, makes her way to her Woking estate to meet discreetly with Chertsey’s abbot, a long-trusted confidant, and to speak with her son. A ruthless army of professional killers known as the Garduna have infiltrated their way into England and are wreaking havoc, tracked by the Luminati. Whoever hired them must be immensely wealthy, and it’s up to Urswicke to find out who and why. Although disquieting, the attacks don’t cause irreparable harm to the countess, and thereby hangs this as-yet-motiveless tale. Someone wants her out of the way but not dead.

Doherty knows his stuff, including historical figures―of which the Garduna and Luminati are part―and 15th-century England, but I was disappointed that Margaret takes such a backseat to Urswicke, whose story this becomes, and the overuse of ‘henchman’ and ‘warbelt’ became irritating. Whatever history makes of Margaret Beaufort, it is impossible not to respect her dogged determination to put her son, Henry, the last Lancastrian, on what she believed was his rightful throne―birthing him at 13, already a widow, protecting him from the many forces wishing his demise, and founding the Tudor dynasty. But was there another contender for that hotly contested throne?

This is a riveting tale of court politics, intrigue, murder, false allegiances, double-crossing and deceit, all of which Margaret survived in her day. The ending opens the door to a sequel in which I hope Margaret’s character is further developed into the formidable woman she must have been. That said, I am not deterred from reading the first in series, Dark Queen Rising.