I came to Queen’s Ransom with the disadvantage of jumping into a series — this is the third in Fiona Buckley’s series of mysteries featuring Ursula Blanchard, a sixteenth-century sleuth in the employ of Queen Elizabeth I and her right-hand man, Sir William Cecil. As this book opens, Ursula is tired of the underhanded work she has undertaken to support her young daughter, and wonders whether it’s time for a break from the spy business. When she embarks on what should be a simple trip to France and the journey becomes increasingly convoluted and clouded with intrigue, her concerns about espionage become even more intense — and understandable!
This is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Buckley, and she writes an excellent Tudor novel, giving the reader a good sense of the place, time and personalities of the historical characters involved. As for Buckley’s own fictional characters, Ursula is an intriguing heroine whose conflicts seem real. I’d like to read both the earlier novels to find out more about her backstory, and the sequel to see what becomes of her.
Setting and character are good, but there’s some weakness here with plot. We all know I’m not normally a mystery reader, but by my standards this isn’t really a mystery, as there’s no clear-cut puzzle to solve. What Buckley does give us is a series of events, some more suspenseful than others — the “mystery” is trying to figure out who’s behind all the misfortunes Ursula encounters on her journey through France and how they all fit together. This wasn’t engaging enough to keep me riveted — I read the book with some interest, but I wouldn’t call it a great page-turner. Great background, but a little more mystery needed to keep me hooked. I did like it enough that I’d pick up another in the series just to find out more about Ursula.