Karen Harper’s latest Elizabeth I mystery, The Fyre Mirror, is another thrilling read. It is the seventh in the series of books that have Elizabeth I investigating various murders with her Privy Plot Council.
The book is set in the spring of 1565. Elizabeth is eager to get out of London and enjoy the spring in Nonsuch Palace. While she is there, she continues a competition among several artists to commission her portrait – including her court artist Gil Sharpe, recently returned from Italy.
Soon after her arrival at Nonsuch, the bodies begin to pile up. Elizabeth soon realizes that the murders maybe a threat on her own life. She and her Privy Plot Council come together to find this latest threat to her reign.
Harper has done another excellent job in setting the time period. Her descriptions bring Elizabethan England alive with the various plots and subplots at court. With her ability to bring “history alive,” the characters that one reads about in stuffy, historical books are easier to remember and relate to.
However, Harper’s books are falling into a formulaic structure. Each murder mystery seems to call into doubt one of her close associates in the beginning and feeds those suspicions until the real killer is discovered. That format was interesting the first few novels, but has grown stale since then.
In all, the book gives a fascinating window into the time period with a formulaic story line.