The Lady Grace Mysteries: Gold

Written by Grace Cavendish
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1578. Lady Grace Cavendish is maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I in this, the seventh Lady Grace mystery. The court is at Windsor Castle and preparations for the wedding of one of the maids of honour are in full swing. The Queen’s temper is short – she hates her maids of honour marrying – and worse, part of a consignment of gold and jewels from Flanders is stolen from an inn at Meadowsfield, only fifteen miles from Windsor.

Grace’s search for the thief is made more difficult by the arrival of numerous wedding guests. Could any of them be involved? What about Stephen Morling, suspiciously taken ill at the banquet, or was that an excuse to leave the castle to intercept the jewels? One eyewitness says that he was threatened by a fine gentleman with a pistol. Another tells of three ruffians heading for the forest. Who is telling the truth? And how is Grace going to get to Meadowfield when she cannot leave the castle unchaperoned?

I enjoyed this in spite of a somewhat slow start. It is a lively glimpse into Elizabethan court life, from the deer hunt which begins the wedding festivities, to the energetic dancing – and the gambling – which follow. We get glimpses behind the scenes, too, for example into the kitchen, laundry and stables and see how they operated. Unlike many historical novels, this one echoes Tudor assumptions about class and gender. Grace cannot scamper about the countryside unchaperoned, nor should she hobnob with servants. Her friends ‘below stairs’ must be visited with circumspection. She must track down the culprit in a way which won’t scandalize the court and damage her reputation. There is also a useful glossary at the back to explain unfamiliar terms.

For girls of 10 plus. Recommended.