Midnight Fire (A Jagiellon Mystery)

Written by P.K. Adams
Review by Janice Ottersberg

In the summer of 1545, Catarina travels to Krakow from her home in Bari, Italy. She is accompanied by her husband and young son, Giulio. Giulio has been ill for most of his life, and Catarina is hopeful of expert medical care that can only be found in a large city. This is not the first time she has made this trip. Twenty-five years earlier, in the first book, Silent Water, Catarina traveled with Lady Bona to Krakow to marry King Zygmunt and became Lady of the Chamber to Queen Bona. Now she hopes to appeal to the Queen for help in finding the best doctor in Krakow.

She finds the court of Wawel a dismal place, quite different from when she left. The King is dying, and Queen Bona is a bitter woman aged beyond her years and trying to hold onto her tenuous power. Their son Zygmunt August is ruling the Duchy of Vilnius and slipping away from the Queen’s influence. His wife has recently died, and he is determined to marry his mistress. In return for helping Catarina get medical help, the Queen requires that Catarina go to the Vilnius court to persuade Zygmunt August not to marry this unsuitable woman.

Catarina is remembered as the woman who helped solve a series of murders in the Wawel court those many years ago. Now when attempted murder and murder stalk the Vilnius court, Catarina gets pulled into the investigation to help find the killer or killers. This novel is steeped in atmosphere, danger, and political intrigue. Adams’ characters, plotting, and unique setting make this a great read. It can be enjoyed without reading the first book, but getting to know the characters and events through both books is rewarding.