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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

A Corpse in Cipher by Lizzy Drake

A Corpse in Cipher: A Tudor Murder Mystery (The Elspet Stafford Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Lizzy Drake

This novel centers on fictional Plantagenet descendant, Elspet Stafford, and the drama that surrounds her. Betrothed to another with ties to the previous dynasty, Elspet is well placed to be considered for the crown if Henry VIII falls in France since Katherine has failed to provide him with an heir.


In a schoolgirlish way, Elspet has fallen in love with the man she is to marry though she has not met him. Unfortunately, her adventures begin with a messenger bringing news of his death. But is he really dead?


This and a few other fanciful questions are tossed around in this quick-paced and rather fanciful story. Elspet quickly befriends a crotchety old dowager duchess who intends for the younger girl to marry her son - another Plantagenet descendant created for the purposes of this story. One would think if there were all these claimants to the throne, Henry would not have it. Of course, there were plenty of Staffords, Howards, Courtenays and others at this time in a similar position, so a part of me just felt that it was odd to create several new family lines, but that is just my opinion.


What I enjoyed most about this book was the detail of everyday life in Tudor England. Elspet washes up with fresh linens, struggles to lace up her own clothes when an attendant is not available, worries about the lack of firewood set aside for the winter. In the midst of a somewhat convoluted plot, these historical tidbits were appreciated.