Shades of Death: Murder at the Court of Elizabeth I (Catrin Surovell Tudor Mysteries)

Written by Angela Ranson
Review by Deborah Cay Wilding

Queen Elizabeth is no stranger to gossip or court intrigue, but in 1560, barely two years after taking the throne, her romantic attachment to Lord Robert Dudley has been causing quite a stir—and never more so than when his wife, Amy, is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. As rumors fly, one question looms large: Was Lord Robert involved in cold-blooded murder? After all, he has good reason to be free of his matrimonial bonds. Elizabeth, however, is convinced of his innocence and determined to get to the bottom of things. Which is where two of her ladies-in-waiting, Catrin Surovell and Lucy Howard, come in. At the queen’s request they travel to the scene of Amy’s death at Cumnor Place tasked with discovering what actually happened, only to get tangled in a web of overlapping conspiracies, betrayal, kidnapping, secret ciphers, and threats to the crown as more bodies pile up.

Although set in Elizabethan England, Shades of Death is part history but mostly fictional crime thriller. This is Book 1 in Ranson’s Catrin Surovell Tudor Mysteries and features Catrin in the role of amateur sleuth of the super-hero variety as she tackles dangerous threats, winds up in one deadly mess after another, then dusts herself off, and it’s back to spying for the queen. Each new clue in the author’s storyline of twists-and-turns kept me turning pages, though the cast of potentially compelling characters is not developed with much depth. Nevertheless, historical mystery buffs who enjoy a crime story generously threaded with false leads and puzzling scraps of evidence will find Shades of Death a fun read.