Her Last Assassin
This is the third novel featuring Lucy Morgan, lady-in-waiting to a now aging Queen Elizabeth I, Lucy’s guardian Faithful Goodluck, and William Shakespeare. The Queen is under threat from a Catholic conspiracy that may be coming from abroad or within her own court. Her loyal spy Goodluck is charged with discovering who is behind this conspiracy. The result is a gripping, exciting read that is part historical fiction, part thriller with a hefty dollop of romance. The briskly-paced story is told from the four perspectives of the main characters. Lamb executes this with style. Each of the stories intertwines with the others in four very individual voices, with excellently observed characterisation. Lucy has many conflicting loyalties and desires and has the extra challenge of living as a black woman in Elizabethan London. Goodluck is courageous and resourceful but has had conflicts in his own past that come to the fore and have to be resolved. Elizabeth’s descent into older age with its attendant fears and losses is poignant, but never maudlin. I would defy anyone to read Shakespeare’s story within the novel and not be deeply moved.
I was also completely engrossed in the setting. Lamb’s sense of time and place is vivid and evocative and pulled me deep into the world of the novel. But while deeply descriptive, her prose is always deft and economical. The only minor criticism I would have was the cover design. I did not expect the mystery/thriller elements to be as strong as they were, as the cover reflected a more traditional historical fiction read. I believe this novel has many elements that would appeal to fans of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series. Highly recommended.