The Lady Grace Mysteries: Loot
1571. The Palace of Placentia, Greenwich. The court is abuzz with news. Visitors have come from all over Europe to see Queen Elizabeth re-enact her coronation of twelve years before. The crown jewels have even been brought from the Tower of London – in strict secrecy. The most precious is St Edward’s crown, the one the queen will wear. There is a political purpose to all this: to demonstrate England’s power. Meanwhile, the queen’s ladies-in-waiting are choosing new dresses for the occasion, and the fuss is enormous.
The story is told by Grace Cavendish, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting, in her ‘daybooke’. Grace has already solved a number of crimes at court and knows that the arrival of the crown jewels poses a special security problem. At first, all goes according to plan, but then disaster strikes: the St Edward’s crown goes missing. If it is not found before the re-enactment, the queen will be humiliated in front of all her guests.
What I enjoy about the Lady Grace books is their knowledge of the period: the clothes, the social customs, the real life people, the daily round and so on. It is all accurate (though I suspect the buddleia is anachronistic).
I also have some caveats. There is too much about clothes at the beginning which holds up the story, and I’d have liked less about how much Grace loved and admired the queen. It’s true that there was a cult of Elizabeth at the time, but one can have too much of a good thing and I found myself thinking, Oh no, not again!
Still, when the story eventually gets going, it’s terrific and zips along at a cracking pace. I’m sure that Grace Cavendish’s fans will enjoy it.
This is a clever mystery story with an intriguing plot. For most of the book I couldn’t figure out how the seemingly impossible crime was committed. Eventually, one obvious clue solved the ‘how’ but not the ‘who’. I was misled by all the red herrings. I was unsure of the thief until he was revealed and I found it utterly surprising. I did not realise the Queen’s status relied so heavily on her crown, which I found slightly overdramatic, but that may be my ignorance about Elizabethan England.
The book is written in an easily understood style although I would have preferred either modern day Standard English or Elizabethan English; for me, a mixture of both didn’t really work.
It’s best to have read at least one of the earlier Lady Grace books to get a good sense of the characters and the relationships between them.
All in all, it was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to children aged 9+ who are developed readers and interested in history or just want to get their teeth into a good mystery.
Rachel Beggs, age 15