P.F. Chisholm,
An Air of Treason
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2014)

I seem to be on a bit of a historical mystery kick these days! An Air of Treason by P.F. Chisholm is a good one!

Thirty-two years ago, the then-young Queen Elizabeth's favored suitor's wife died under mysterious circumstances. What were these circumstances? And why is she revisiting this scandal now?

The Elizabethan era is a fascinating one -- heading toward modern in many ways, and yet a completely different society as well. Chisholm does an excellent job of bridging these, and painting an evocative picture of aspects of what it must have really been like to live then and there. (This is one reason I prefer solid historical fiction to pure history; I am very curious about how people actually lived, not just about Great Events.)

The characters here are distinct and well-drawn, particularly the more primary ones. The main plot is nice and twisty, but with sufficient foreshadowing and cross-connections that it's satisfyingly solid, while -- for me at least -- the resolution was mostly a surprise. Various secondary plotlines are woven in, too, and it will be interesting to see which of these Chisholm picks up in the next volume.

This is the sixth volume in this mystery series, and although I had some trouble keeping the names and titles straight -- especially since the same person could be referred to by given name, surname, title or some abbreviation of any or all of them -- it wasn't confusing, and enough of the history and backstory was included to make sense even to me, who has not only not read any of the previous novels but who does not have a solid grasp of Queen Elizabeth's court. Nicely done! A "glossary" of the people involved, with ALL the ways in which their names and titles were used, would have been helpful at times. However, I appreciated the glossary of Elizabethan terms and slang at the end -- it was a fun bonus, as was the page or so of historical notes.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I'll be looking for others in the series. I'd be curious what history buffs more knowledgeable about the era think of the context in particular, both historic and practical. I do recommend this book to others fascinated by the Elizabethan era, even when we are not experts on it.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

12 April 2014

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