This month sees the return of P.F. Chisholm’s Sir Robert Carey series in the fifth novel, A Murder of Crows, and hooray for that! Here is the introduction I wrote for the second novel in the series, oh so long ago now…
The scene is the nebulous and ever-changing border between Scotland and England in 1592, the thirty-fourth year of the reign of Good Queen Bess, five years after the Spanish Armada, fifty-one years after Henry VIII beheaded his fifth queen. Reivers with a high disregard for the allegiance or for that matter the nationality of their victims roved freely back and forth across this border during this time, pillaging, plundering, assaulting and killing as they went.
Into this scene of mayhem and murder gallops Sir Robert Carey, the central figure (and real historical figure) of the mystery novels by P.F. Chisholm, including A Famine of Horses, A Season of Knives, A Surfeit of Guns and A Plague of Angels. Sir Robert is the Deputy Warden of the West March, and his duty is to enforce the peace on the Border. Since everyone on the English side is first cousin once removed to everyone on the Scottish side, it is frequently difficult to tell his men which way to shoot.
Sir Robert is as delightful a character as any who ever thrust and parried his way into the pages of a work of fiction, in this century or out of it. He is handsome, intelligent, charming, capable, as quick with a laugh as he is with a sword. He puts the buckle into swash. He puts the court into courtier; in fact, his nickname is the Courtier.
The ensemble surrounding him is equally engaging. There is Sergeant Henry Dodd, Sir Robert’s second-in-command, who does “his best to look honest but thick.” There is Lord Scrope, Sir Robert’s brother-in law and feckless superior, who sits “hunched like a heron in his carved chair.” There is Philadelphia, Sir Robert’s sister, “a pleasing small creature with black ringlets making ciphers on her white skin.” And there is the Lady Elizabeth Widdrington, Sir Robert’s love and the wife of another man, who is “hard put to it to keep her mind on her prayers: Philadelphia’s brother would keep marching into her thoughts.”
There is hand-to-hilt combat with villains rejoicing in names like Jock of the Peartree, and brushes with royalty in the appearance of King James of Scotland, who’s a little in love with Sir Robert himself. And who can blame him? Sir Robert is imminently lovable, and these four books are a rollicking, roistering revelation of a time long gone, recaptured for us in vivid and intense detail in this series.
The series in order:
and this month
A Murder of Crows. I was lucky enough to score an ARC and I liked it so much I did a thing I hardly ever do, I blurbed it, thusly:
Sir Robert Carey is back at last in this fifth novel in PF Chisholm’s Sir Robert Carey series, with the redoubtable Sergeant Henry Dodd matching wits with Sir Robert’s mother, the darling and deadly Lady Hunsdon. Well worth the wait.
Chisholm Herself, aka Patricia Finney, will appear live! and in person! this weekend at the Poisoned Pen Conference in Scottsdale. I’ll be there, too, checked in to the swanky Arizona Biltmore Hotel at the bargain basement conference price of $89 a night. Lots of fun will be had therein, including a panel on Georgette Heyer that no GH fan will want to miss. Come on down!
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.