Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman

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Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Fictional Plantaganet spy and sleuth Justin de Quincy is back for the forth time in The Queen's Man series and now finds himself working for his enemy, Prince John. Bringing to mind the work of people like Shirley McKay and VM Whitworth, the experience is much more pleasurable for us than for poor Justin!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781857083

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1193: Justin de Quincy, bastard son of the Bishop of Chester and loyal to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, steers clear of Eleanor's youngest son John at all costs. After all, John's henchman did try to murder him. However there's a plot afoot to frame John for a crime he didn’t commit (for a change), bringing with it somewhat of a dilemma for Justin. As much as he hates John, de Quincy realises that getting to the bottom of the plot is in the interests of the Queen and England. So Justin's course is set, no matter what it costs and no matter which hornets' nests it disturbs.

Sharon Kay Penman (dropping the middle name for UK audiences) is a much loved American author. Intriguingly enough, the publicity blurb accompanying this novel states she's author of eight critically acclaimed historical novels and The Queen's Man historical crime series. Are they saying that 'The QM' isn't good enough for acclaim or that it's not historical fiction? Personally I would argue against either suggestion.

This series is most definitely historical fiction. They're well researched mixing fictional characters with factual people and fictional moments with historic events to add layers and options to the mysteries. The series premier, The Queen's Man even won the Edgar Award for the First Best Mystery category, putting paid to any idea that they lack acclaim. However, the accolades for publisher Head of Zeus outweigh the brickbats as they've given the series (which was first published in the late 1990s/early 2000s) a well-deserved second outing.

Talking of the series, it is possible to read the books out of order. However, there are some tiny spoilers that may make us wish we hadn't.

As spy and liege to the Queen doing the right thing is synonymous with doing what he's told but that doesn't always negate his conscience. Some have suggested that this makes him a bland personality. I didn't notice that too much as, not only did I rather like him, but he's surrounded by people who more than make up for any tinge of vanilla flavouring he may emit.

As an example I offer you Morgan, the Welsh stable hand who has certain traits that may suggest hidden depths. I also, contrarily enough, fell for Sir Durand, chief henchman to Lord John. Contrarily? Indeed he's the guy who tried to kill Justin in a previous volume.

In true Shirley McKay/V M Whitworth style there are deaths and twists that litter the journey as we travel through towns and past edifices that are still there to be visited today. (This is one of Sharon's specialities.)

Sharon also has a great turn of phrase. I mean, we all know people whose imaginations are not so much under-used as undiscovered but it takes someone like Ms Penman to put the phrase within our reach.

The only minor gripes I have are a feeling of surprise that Justin meets someone he knows within 5 minutes of riding into any town or village and, as there are quite a few people to memorise, a list of characters at the beginning would have been nice. (Having said that, it is manageable without one.)

That aside, my initial reaction stayed with me throughout the novel: not only is this a ripping good tale, but Sharon Penman writes British historical fiction as one born to the heritage. Trust me, that's praise indeed.

As always, thank you to HoZ for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If you want to read more of Sharon's work, we recommend Lionheart. If you like a historical mystery, try the wonderful Time and Tide by Shirley McKay or the equally absorbing The Bone Thief: (Wulfgar 1) by V M Whitworth.

Buy Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman at

Buy Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman at


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