Thursday, August 26, 2010

Better Historical Fiction Than Mystery

A Question of Guilt: A Novel of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Death of Henry Darnley by Julianne Lee (Berkley, 2008, 320pp.)

Inquisitive Janet De Ros finds herself drawn to the tale of ill-fated Scottish Queen Mary. Although Mary has recently been beheaded for treason against Elizabeth I, most people blame her for her supposed part in the murder of her drunken bully husband, Lord Darnley. But is this really the case? Janet, a compelling heroine in her own right, decides to find out the truth for herself. The novel’s main strength, its examination of women’s proper place in the male-dominated society of medieval Britain, is neatly paralleled in both Mary’s past and Janet’s present: Mary Stuart is victimized by her power-hungry suitors, while Janet is forced to examine the delicate partnership she maintains with her husband. Although an enjoyable read for the most part, it’s not the most stellar of mysteries, and proves to be more a work of historical fiction than anything else. That said, there are certainly better treatments of the Queen of Scots’ story (Margaret George’s epic Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles comes immediately to mind). Nonetheless, the book is entertaining and may appeal to readers, if only those who are history buffs and/or Scotophiles (those obsessed with everything Scottish).

Click on cover for image source.

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