In a remote English manor house, modern admirers of the much-maligned King Richard III—one of Shakespeare's most extraordinary villains—are gathered for a grand weekend of dress-up and make-believe murder. But the fun ends when the masquerade turns more sinister...and deadly. Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian on hand for the festivities, suddenly finds herself in the center of strange, dark doings...and racing to untangle a murderous puzzle before history repeats itself in exceptionally macabre ways.
Elizabeth Peters is a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She also wrote as Barbara Michaels as well as her own name. Born and brought up in Illinois, she earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. Mertz was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards in 1998. She lived in a historic farmhouse in Frederick, western Maryland until her death.
Fairly average, predictable and try hard 'English Country House' mystery with a quirky American librarian as the sleuth. The subject matter was not dissimilar to Tey's The Daughter of Time but I'm afraid that's where the comparison ends. However, I did enjoy that this book characterized fanatical Ricardians as complete nutters and I couldn't resist awarding it an extra star for that fact alone ;-).
Sir Richard Weldon hosts a meeting of fellow devotees of Richard III at his English Country House for purposes of reading of some scholarly papers, a medieval themed banquet and costume ball, and, most importantly, to announce the re-discovery of a letter from Elizabeth of York in which she declares her love for her uncle Richard. That letter had been lost for centuries and the recent unearthing of the letter purportedly contains additional pages clearing Richard III of the murders of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower.
Jacqueline Kirby is among the house guests but not a member of the Ricardian group, having being invited by her love interest, Thomas. She is quick witted and adept at solving mysteries as well as defending herself with a weighty purse which she wields with lethal precision.
The members of the society each assume the identity of people associated with King Richard. Sir Richard himself portrays the king. Others include his cousin who is built like a battleship who is supposed to be Richard’s consumptive wife, Anne Neville. The cousin’s lovely daughter Liz is Elizabeth of York. And if you know your history of this period, you know that there were rumors of an affair between King Richard and his niece Elizabeth. Here, Sir Richard and Liz are mutually attracted.
Someone in the group—or maybe a virulent anti-Ricardian party crasher James Strangeways—decides to play a series of practical jokes on the group by reenacting the murders that have been ascribed to Richard by Shakespeare and some historians. Jacqueline’s friend, Thomas, who is portraying the Duke of Clarence is found hanging upside down in a wine barrel. Are these incidents merely attempts to embarrass the group or might they signal more deadly events in the offing: perhaps an actual murder, in order to facilitate the theft of the letter or for some other motive?
Never fear for Jacqueline solves the mystery and along the way we can laugh at some of the doings of these Richard obsessed people. For instance, at the medieval banquet , Richard’s sister-in-law, the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, is played by an emaciated woman who cranks out lame poetry idolizing King Richard.
“The sun shone bright, the sky was fair, The birds did sweetly sing, Across the green of Bosworth Field, There rode the brave young king.
Boldly he mounted his great white steed, He gazed upon the sky, His slender hands took up the reins And a tear stood in his eye.”
Call me odd, but I would thoroughly enjoy a party where I can join in a discussion about the Buckingham Rebellion with fellow attendees.
I really, really dislike this character Jacqueline the librarian, and am shocked by it, because I enjoy Peters' other two series very much, especially Vicky Bliss. Maybe it's the third person narrative that keeps the reader more an audience than inside the character's head along for the ride. The character has a lot of Amelia Peabody if she were a late 20th-century divorcee with no binding attachments, but it is the binding attachments and a family of characters that allow us to see into the deeper loyalties and emotions of the character that make Amelia Peabody lovable, rather than arrogant and cold. Jacqueline, like Amelia, expresses certainties about her own character that her actions belie, i.e., that she does care about people and their troubles, but she is a woman set loose in mid-life from the duties of motherhood and she is only serving her own whims. I simply can't find the heart of the woman, and her shenanigans verge on the cruel at times. The mystery is an English country-house Agatha Christie set-up. It is okay, but disliking the main character made it hard to pay attention to whether it was a good mystery or not.
I thought that this would be an interesting light read because it was written in 1974 and the subject matter was very relevant to the present day. I was keen to know how Richard III was perceived retrospectively. We have just found out so much more about his physical appearance and how he was buried and I wanted to compare that to what we knew forty years ago. The story is very light and if you are interested in a beginner's guide to who was who at the court of King Richard then you will enjoy it. I found all of the characters equally annoying, they were mainly members of a Ricardian society and most of them are obsessed by the subject. They all meet at the home of Herman Weldon for a weekend of make believe and re-enactment, Weldon taking on the role of Richard III at the gathering. The Guests all dress as one of Richard's contemporaries and it is through their constant arguments and theories about Richard that we get the full history lesson of supposed events during his reign. I felt that there was just too much information as the reader is bombarded by different speculations and anyone who knew nothing about the events would, I feel, come out of it knowing even less than they did in the first place. As for the plot of the story, I was disappointed, I was waiting for something to happen but not much does. The denouement is very lengthy and, I think, struggles to tie in all the ends.
Too many characters to keep track of, complicated by the fact that they’re all role-playing parts from the life of Richard III, so you have to learn both their modern and historical personas. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the history this book would have been more fun - but it missed the opportunity to really delve into and teach that history. The mystery itself was pretty contrived, and the sleuths were just fine. Sorry Elizabeth Peters - give me Josephine Tey or Margery Allingham any day…
This was a fun story. Jacqueline is more clearly the heroine but still not the main point of view. The story follows the traditional "country house with limited number of suspects" format, but keeps things different with a series of accidents that may or may not be murder attempts!
The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters. Read for the third time and reviewed November 17, 2020.
Jacqueline Kirby is a librarian with a quick wit and a purse that includes just about anything needed in an emergency. She’s visiting London and is invited by Thomas Carter, her love interest and a university professor, to be his guest at a house party being hosted by Sir Richard Weldon, whose chain of department stores has made him a very wealthy man.
Sir Richard, like Thomas, has more than just a passing interest in Richard III, and the house party guests are a group of like-minded Ricardians who some might call eccentric. (I won’t, though, because I can relate to many of them!) Sir Richard, in fact, has taken his interest to the level of more than just buying the latest book on the subject. His Yorkshire home includes a replica of Crosby Hall – inside and out.
The purpose of the gathering, in addition to the usual reading of papers on Ricardian topics, is to produce a letter recently discovered – the one purportedly written by Elizabeth of York in which she declares her love for her Uncle Richard – in the hope of determining its authenticity.
When Jacqueline arrives at the imitation Crosby Hall, she finds the other guests are all in costume, portraying people associated with Richard III. Sir Richard Weldon is King Richard. Mrs. Ponsonby-Jones, a middle-aged matron, dresses as Anne Neville. Her daughter Liz portrays Elizabeth of York, and her obnoxious, overweight son Percy plays Edward V. Other guests portray Edward of Lancaster, George of Clarence, Lord William Hastings, Elizabeth Woodville, and a few more. Not having a character to play, Jacqueline says she’ll portray Richard’s mistress.
What starts out as an unusual but interesting weekend takes a bizarre turn when someone starts playing nasty practical jokes on the guests – reenacting the titular murders of Richard III (as in the different murders attributed to him by Tudor historians and Shakespeare). “Edward of Lancaster” is found on the floor of the cellar, at first thought to be dead but thankfully only unconscious – left for “dead” on a substitute battlefield. “George of Clarence” finds himself trussed up and hanging upside down in an empty wine barrel. And so on.
At first, it’s thought that the culprit is James Strangways, once a member of the Richard III Society who has turned coat and is now very anti-Ricardian, and who has crashed the party. He’d like nothing better than to embarrass the pro-Richard folk. But Strangways has an alibi…or does he? Later, when things take a deadly turn, the question becomes, is the culprit in fact one of the house guests?
I’ve read this book several times 1) because I enjoy anything written by Elizabeth Peters, and 2) because of its Ricardian theme. There’s history and witty repartee, both of which make this book a winner for me. All except Jacqueline’s referring to Richard as “Old Crookback” on a couple of occasions, but in her defense I’ll point out that this book was written long before Richard’s remains were found. On the other hand, she has a good theory as to what happened to Richard's nephews.
I've been a Ricardian sympathizer since I first made my way through Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time—in high school? college? I can no longer remember. Since then, a lifetime spent studying Europe from the 5th to the 19th centuries has given me a healthy appreciation of the willingness that rulers displayed to dispatch even close relatives who threatened their power, but the case against Richard still strikes me as weak. So I am a perfect audience for this updated, at times hilarious, revisit to the Ricardian controversy, especially from one of my favorite writers.
Jacqueline Kirby, librarian at a small Midwestern college, is on vacation in London when her friend Thomas invites her to attend a meeting of his Ricardian society, funded by a wealthy industrialist who has just acquired a letter proving Richard's innocence. The meeting at first appears to be a collection of harmless if not entirely pleasant crackpots who dress up in medieval costumes to rehash events 500 years in the past. But then mysterious accidents affect one guest after another, and it becomes clear that someone has decided to replicate the murders attributed to Richard III. The society members insist these incidents are mere pranks, but Jacqueline is not convinced....
Like Die for Love, by the same author and featuring the same amateur detective, this book is charming, intelligent, creative, and funny. Peters does a better job than Tey of infusing her mystery with the pros and cons of Ricardian argument, although the novel does at times veer into information dump. And again like Die for Love, this book ends with a long explanation by Kirby, without which readers could not solve the mystery (although all the necessary pieces are present). But it's still a good read, especially given the recent discovery in Leicester of Richard III's skeleton.
An amusing mystery story about a group of Ricardians with an attractive lady 'detective' given to a dose of sarcasm.
You don't have to be a Ricardian to enjoy the story, but being a bit of one myself, this was my main motivation for reading this - and it made me think I should probably take up the old study (last endulged something like ten years ago now) again.
The book was written in the 1970s, and it shows. In a positive way in the brevity of the book - ah, the good old times, when bestsellers were around 320 pages... - in a more negative way in the general shock this bright, outspoken woman creates among the males of the book.
The reason it's only three stars for me: the author is rather fond of ten-dollar words, which she uses all over the place - excuse me, which she employs abundantly ;) - perhaps in the hopes of sounding elegant, but it's a bit hit-and-miss. Also, the interaction between the characters often seemed haphazard to me: quarrels break out for no reason, frowns and smiles show equally without motivation.
Still, in spite of these it was a quick and amusing read.
Oct 2018: a bit messy on audio and the fat-shaming is really appalling, perhaps just because I was mildly irritated by reader Grace Conlin and majorly irritated by Jacqueline Kirby’s smugness. I wish that as a know-it-all librarian she would be a bit more kind. Not adjusting the stars but this time I’d not give it more than three.
Aug 2013: Five stars for being a good Jacqueline Kirby, but perhaps I like it because it is so Vicky Blissish? I have a soft spot for historical reenactment crazies and they're all here.
Thomas is narrating this book. He invites Jacqueline Kirby to a weekend of semi-scholars who are supporting the idea that Richard III did not murder his nephews. (NOTE: this topic was investigated in Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time.") The party takes place in an English Country house where someone is playing a dangerous game. A each member of the party dresses up the role of one of the major historical characters with the host playing Richard. The mystery is OK. The humor between Thomas and Jacqueline charming.
This is a Jacqueline Kirby mystery, and I like her even if she is a too-perfect Mary Sue. The book is fun, a drawing room mystery where all the suspects are within one social group, gathered in one house. The group in question are re-enacting the history of Richard III, so the history and theories about the late king are a bonus. This is a quick, easy read.
This was a hard book to read. I appreciate scholarly aspects added to a mystery but this was just too much. I had to look up information about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses and about historical dress to understand what was going on. I was relieved that the book did not involve as many murders as the historical time did. Other Jacqueline Kirby books are much better than this one.
Ein Alltime Favorite. Lese ich immer wieder gerne. :) Unterhaltsamer als Elizabeth Peter's Krimis wird es einfach nicht. [Edit: Das Fatshaming ist jedoch unnötig und ziemlich grässlich. Das hätte man einfach weglassen können.]
I've always been interested in Richard III and I really enjoyed the debate in the book--did he or did he not kill the young princes? The character of Thomas kind of annoyed me, though. In general, it was a decent mystery.
Reading the Jacqueline Kirby series has been fun because it's like an origin story for Elizabeth Peters and her Amelia Peabody series. I can see hints of what made Amelia Peabody great, but not all the pieces are there yet.
I enjoyed the setting and quirky cast in this novel (Elizabeth Peters must have hated some kid named Percy, because here he is, annoying as can be AND there's another horrible Percy in the Amelia Peabody series) although for the second book in a row I've noticed that there is no kindness for fat people, which is something I haven't noticed in Elizabeth Peters books before, but I find distasteful.
Some of the pacing wasn't quite right and it's a bit of a curious take on a murder mystery, so that and the fat phobia docked it down a bit for me.
Elizabeth Peters was one of my favorite authors in my teenage years. I’m in the minority as I disliked Amelia Peabody, except for the first book, and loved her Vicky Bliss and Jaqueline Kirby series’ as well as her stand alones. If I read this when I was younger, I don’t remember it. I like Jaqueline Kirby as a character and think she’s aged well. The problem with this book is that I really don’t care about Richard III or his history and the whole book revolves around it.
They gather at a country house to display to the world a long lost letter exonerating Richard III of the princes' murders, but seemingly a jokester is recreating all of the offenses for which Richard has been blamed.
Jacqueline Kirby has been included in the group, due to her experience with ancient documents, but it is her analytical mind that will avert murder.
Every now and then I need a light, easy read. My preferred genre in that case is mystery. I'm self-limited by a low tolerance for anything gruesome or too violent. I love the old fashioned mysteries like Sherlock Holmes or Lord Peter Whimsy. Elizabeth Peters isn't quite in that league, but her books are clever and enjoyable reads. Her characters stand out as originals, and her plots have elements other than just "crime".
This book was fun for me because I just watched a documentary on the exhumation of Richard the Third. If I can't read a classic mystery (because I've read them all) at least I can read a mystery about classic literature (Shakespeare)! I did like the Jacqueline Kirby character quite a bit, and went on to read other books in her series. I would have rated this book higher if the other characters were as believable as she is.
Peters is a prolific author, so most people who read mysteries probably already know if they like her or not. If you liked her other books, this one is definitely one of the higher quality plots. If you haven't read her before, this would be a good introduction.
I had feared there would be too much about the mystery in modern times and not enough about Richard III, but there was enough discussion of the past (and love for the long-dead man) to suit my tastes. As for the more modern goings-on, they were certainly amusing enough to hold my interest. And since there was more than one mystery, while I solved one of them well before the reveal, the other one snuck up on me.
Elizabeth Peters is one of my favorite writers, and so far none of her books have disappointed me. This one excited me more than usual, however, because of my keen interest in Richard III, and I had hoped it would prove to be her best work (or at least my personal favorite). My hopes were too high, unfortunately, but the book is utterly readable and enjoyable.
Okay, I am hoping that Goodreads readers can help me.
I was really excited to read this as I am a staunch Richardian. However, after the page where the character goes on and on about how Charles II was sexy and didnt care about the paintings about those who were not? Yeah, I just made the decision then not to invest my time.
I am not saying that all I read is first rate literature...it is just that that particular scene turned me off just ever so much.
Can anyone tell me that I am wrong and it is worth a read? I do see that it gets mainly three to four stars? Should I give it another go?
I adore Elizabeth Peters and look forward to watching her tackle Josephine Tey territory, here!
Enjoyable for the most part but extremely irritating as a mystery. Having a character archly declare that in mysteries they would be interrupted before saying whodunnit and THEN having the character interrupted before saying whodunnit is just irksome, not witty. The mystery is convoluted and the characters occasionally hard to keep track of. Most of all, I just didn't much care what happened to anyone.
Not too exciting of a mystery, but I enjoyed the character of Jacqueline Kirby enough to get through. She certainly stole the show from the stupid, whiny, preposterous protagonist. The rest of the characters are pretty one-dimensional but they are good enough to prop up the plot.