The Gallows Murders by Michael Clynes

St. Martin’s (first), 1996

In the fifth of the Roger Shallot series, Shallot, rougish but faithful servant of Benjamin Daubney, Cardinal Wolsey’s nephew, is called in together with his master to investigate when King Henry VIII receives letters claiming that Prince Edward, supposedly murdered in the Tower by Richard III years ago, is alive and threatens Henry’s right to rule England. Moreover, someone is killing off the king’s hangmen one by one. Historical purists may be somewhat put off by the modernism of Shallot’s narration, but his lively loquaciousness makes an easy read. Shallot’s repeated claims to have given Shakespeare all his best plots, characters, and quotes wear thin very quickly, but the book is worthwhile for Shallot’s blunt observations on the character of King Henry (whom he calls the Great Beast) and his government officials as much as anything. Especially sinister is the character of Dr. Agrippa, Wolsey’s henchman: “A magus, a warlock, a man who never grew old or died…. Agrippa, with his cherubic face and soulless eyes, lived and lurked in the shadow of Wolsey; yet I have met with those who will swear on oath that Agrippa was with Richard III at Bosworth Field.” (Helen M Francini)

Originally published in Issue # 146 – January/February 1999

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