Patricia Finney, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-312-31285-5

Third in a series of related but stand-alone historical thrillers (Unicorn's Blood; Firedrake's Eye ), this brooding, multifaceted tale is set on the eve of the sailing of the Spanish Armada in 1588. David Becket, clerk of the ordnance and sometime spy for Elizabeth I, is ordered by the queen to discover the details of a top-secret Spanish plot dubbed the "Miracle of Beauty." In addition, Becket is commanded to rescue his fellow English spy and friend, Simon Ames, who has been condemned by the Spanish Inquisition as a heretic. Simon escapes burning as a Jew only to be consigned as a galley slave to a new and powerful Spanish warship that may prove to be England's undoing—especially when coupled with Spanish plans to take a key French port. Ames's wife, Rebecca, insists on traveling with Becket to find Ames, and when he tries to stop her, she outwits him and takes his ship, assisted by one of Becket's old enemies. Becket, undaunted, makes his way to France with Rebecca's former servant, Merula, a black woman with shamanic powers who has, by guile bordering on magic, worked her way north from Africa in search of her enslaved son. Becket was a deeply wounded soul after his wrongful imprisonment and torture in Unicorn's Blood , and Merula offers him spiritual healing. The various threads of this wide-ranging tale of intrigue do not come together neatly, but Finney's vivid prose and the high level of historical imagination on display make for a satisfying read. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-312-31286-2
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4668-5318-8
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