cover image The Tidal Poole

The Tidal Poole

Karen Harper. Delacorte Press, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33284-2

Feisty young Bess tackles her second investigation with a single-minded thoroughness and toughness that would suit any gumshoe. Indeed, those qualities served Bess throughout her long reign, for she is none other than Bess Tudor, aka Queen Elizabeth I, the Tudor descendant destined to govern unruly England for 45 years. On the eve of her tortuous ascension to the throne, Bess looks forward to the conclusion of her stay at the Tower of London (where monarchs traditionally spend the week before their coronation) and the opportunity to end the plotting and infighting that have bedeviled the country since her father's death. Instead, the murder of a young woman along Bess's triumphal procession to Westminster Abbey casts suspicion on several trusted friends and causes her to undertake her own investigation, aided by a strange but effective cast of helpers. A nice mix of historical and fictional characters, deft twists and a plucky, engaging young heroine enhance this welcome sequel to The Poyson Garden. Harper's 16th-century England may not rival the beautifully woven tapestries of Ellis Peters or match the elegant atmospherics of Anne Perry, but her version of Elizabeth's England seethes with enough jealousies, feuds and plotters to furnish many more entertaining adventures. Author tour. (Jan.)