Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Traitor's Tears by Fiona Buckley

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 21, 2013

July, 1573. Recently widowed, Ursula Blanchard is living a quiet life on her Surrey estate, caring for her infant son. But her peaceful existence is shattered when Ursula's neighbour Jane Cobbold is found dead in her own flowerbed, stabbed through the heart with a silver dagger - and Ursula's manservant Brockley is arrested for the crime. Determined to prove Brockley's innocence, Ursula seeks help from her old mentor Lord Burghley. But when a second death occurs and the queen's new spymaster, Francis Walsingham, gets involved, once again Ursula is reluctantly drawn into matters of espionage and affairs of state.

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Fiona Buckley's A Traitor's Tears is a tough book for me to review. The mystery is solid enough, not as gripping as I might have liked, but interesting in its way. Problem is I couldn't help feeling I would have enjoyed this piece more if I'd been already familiar with the Ursula Blanchard series.

I can't speak for the rest of the books, but this installment is particularly reliant on pre-established relationships and while it is certainly possible to read it as a standalone, I can't say I'd recommend doing so. Not unless you enjoy feeling like something of a third wheel. The author recaps essential information, but no amount of rehashing is substitute for good old fashioned character development. 

I don't mean to sound overly critical as I'm sure Buckley's characters and their backgrounds are firmly established in Ursula's earlier adventures, I am simply stating new readers are not afforded a lot of opportunity to connect with her players and that makes it really difficult appreciate the drama of their circumstances and really undermines the inherent value of this particular story.

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‘Women should not be in positions of power. I am aware, madam, that Mrs Cobbold disliked you and that you suffered from her tongue, but though I deplore the way she spread scandal about you, I can understand why she did not approve of you. A good deal of your history is known to me and, believe me, it isn’t the kind of past I would want for any lady in my family.’
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