The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

Written by Alexandra Walsh
Review by Wendy Zollo

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is an “alternate” tale of Henry VIII’s fifth wife which slips timeframes between the 1500s and the present.

Dr. Perdita Rivers and her sister become the beneficiaries of her estranged grandmother’s estate, leading to the disentanglement of Catherine Howard’s unknown association with the estate and introducing numerous questions, both past and present, for Perdita to untangle.

The tale is presented as a mystery. To its advantage, it’s quickly paced; to its detriment, it offers fleeting insight into its characters motivations. It’s an enjoyable read if an interestingly quirky one. Walsh surely can write well and creatively, and wholeheartedly keeps you engaged.

Catherine is the polar opposite of the historical figure we’ve encountered. She’s pure of body and heart, clever and faithfully loyal, and Henry is a grim fiend with few if any redeemable qualities. Henry is an unfortunate caricature, which even in an alternate history is difficult to digest. The story is inventive, though the characters are in ardent need of some complexity and profundity. The mystery itself is transparent and the conclusion, even considering the continuation of the series, abrupt.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is a mixed bag of a book, though also one I was drawn to, liked, and frankly was fascinatedly immersed in.