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C. P. Lesley

Bookworm, writer, radio host—I blog about history, fiction, and publishing in the Internet Age. You can find the full blog on my website. This space is for books.

The Murders of Richard III - Elizabeth Peters

I've been a Ricardian sympathizer since I first made my way through Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time—in high school? college? I can no longer remember. Since then, a lifetime spent studying Europe from the 5th to the 19th centuries has given me a healthy appreciation of the willingness that rulers displayed to dispatch even close relatives who threatened their power, but the case against Richard still strikes me as weak. So I am a perfect audience for this updated, at times hilarious, revisit to the Ricardian controversy, especially from one of my favorite writers.

Jacqueline Kirby, librarian at a small Midwestern college, is on vacation in London when her friend Thomas invites her to attend a meeting of his Ricardian society, funded by a wealthy industrialist who has just acquired a letter proving Richard's innocence. The meeting at first appears to be a collection of harmless if not entirely pleasant crackpots who dress up in medieval costumes to rehash events 500 years in the past. But then mysterious accidents affect one guest after another, and it becomes clear that someone has decided to replicate the murders attributed to Richard III. The society members insist these incidents are mere pranks, but Jacqueline is not convinced....

Like Die for Love, by the same author and featuring the same amateur detective, this book is charming, intelligent, creative, and funny. Peters does a better job than Tey of infusing her mystery with the pros and cons of Ricardian argument, although the novel does at times veer into information dump. And again like Die for Love, this book ends with a long explanation by Kirby, without which readers could not solve the mystery (although all the necessary pieces are present). But it's still a good read, especially given the recent discovery in Leicester of Richard III's skeleton.