What’s the book about?
A murder is set to interrupt a chess tournament of repute. The Sultan doesn’t wish that and hearing of the Englishman Roger Ascham’s experience in investigation, demands he finds the killer. In his charge, Elizabeth Tudor, Princess of England. As the tournament unfolds in the background, the duo unravel the knots of the mystery, knowing danger lurks in the streets of Constantinople.
A feather in the cap of a very talented thriller writer. Reilly takes characters from history and weaves a tale of mystery and intrigue, and many murders.
The book was interesting for quite a few reasons. Firstly, the setting. During a time of war, and in the 16th century. The time period itself meant the crime would have to be solved in a different way. And it proved to be just that. A crime solved by observation, intelligent deductions and prompt action. I say prompt action, because for reasons the plot would explain, the crime needed solving in a short duration.
Many would think this book is historical fiction. It is not. It is a crime fiction based on historical characters. This is the author’s imagination concocting a crime, it’s solution quite stunning and the repercussion of Ascham and Elizabeth’s trip perhaps profound. I loved Ascham’s character, and felt such a mentor would be wonderful. One who doesn’t pamper his student, lets her experience things which will build her character, while keeping her royal personage in mind, taking care not to put her in trouble because of his mentoring either. Another character I thought interesting was Elsie. I didn’t quite understand why her character was needed, not till the end. And while I thought the ending chosen for her character was very disheartening, looking at her actions, perhaps that end was what she brought on herself.
I know I can depend on Reilly for thrillers but never expected such a crime fiction from his pen. Gripping, exciting, page turner. Details were well used. I couldn’t guess the killer though. There’s a lot of sex, details shared with much description. Not sure if that level of detail was necessary but it paints characters in a certain color.
This book is well worth a try. Knowing that DDS loved the genre, I felt this was something she would enjoy reading. Hence I gifted this to her.
When Leo gifted me this book on one of our regular excursions to Blossoms Book House, I knew I had to dive into it immediately. Leo’s recommendations are usually spot on.
As expected, I enjoyed this book thoroughly as it was very different from all the books that I have recently read. For instance, the book is set in the 16th century, long before forensic science was even thought of. So, the protagonist had to rely more on his own skills than forensic evidence. Then there’s the fact that most of the characters are inspired by real life characters which called for a medley of facts and fiction. I did look up a few characters mentioned in the book, particularly Roger Ascham.
The character of Roger Ascham is probably one of the main reasons I liked the book so much. He is the mentor of young Elizabeth and through the course of the story we learn exactly how their relationship is. While Ascham believed in Elizabeth experiencing things for herself and helped guide her thought process, he was also very protective of her. He allowed Elizabeth to experience things that the people of the time would have thought scandalous for a woman to experience, yet maintained a level of security for her at all times. He encouraged independent thinking… Aside from his relationship with his ward, the way he investigates using common sense and attention to detail was also very admirable. I particularly liked him in a scene where he stands up and confronts a very influential man. It showed his confidence and courage.
Elizabeth herself turned out to be an interesting character. At thirteen, she is very logical and level headed. Encouraged by her mentor, she is also very curious about the world. The one thing that bothered me in the book, was the fact that since this was sort of coming of age novel for Elizabeth; the author brought in the sex element through her friend Elsie rather than through Elizabeth’s personal experience. The narrative got a bit dry and felt forced whether it was Elsie narrating her experience or whether it was Elizabeth witnessing her friend in the act. The book also handles the topic of Child Sexual Abuse in a very matter of fact way, which I admit was slightly jarring for me. I am not sure if I am comfortable with where the book leaves it off at.
The plot itself was simple enough for me to figure out the ‘mystery’ ahead of time. But that did not take away from the reading experience at all. There was a little action towards the end to spice things up.
The BFFs Leo and DDS!
Dated: 13th October 2018.