Epiphany, 1193: the road out of Winchester was hidden by snow, and Justin de Quincy was making slow progress when he heard the first faint shout. It came again, louder and clearer, a cry for help. Spurring his stallion, de Quincy raced toward the source.
But he was already too late. As the two assailants fled, de Quincy cradled the dying man, straining to make out his whispered words. "They did not get it," he rasped. "Promise me. You must deliver this letter to her. To the queen." Eleanor of Aquitaine sits on England's throne. At seventy, she has outlived the husband with whom she had once scandalized the world. But has she also outlived her favorite, her first-born son? Richard Lionheart, England's king, has been missing these last months. It is rumored that he is dead. Many think his youngest brother plots to steal the crown. Only Eleanor's fierce will can keep John from acting on his greed. Only a letter, splattered with the blood of a dying man murdered on the Winchester road, can tell her if Richard still lives. With the same sure touch she has brought to her historical fiction, Sharon Kay Penman turns to the mystery form. Setting her story in a period she captured brilliantly in earlier novels, she introduces Justin de Quincy. Bastard-born, de Quincy is the son of a high cleric who never acknowledged him, bestowing on the boy--in lieu of name or fortune--only an education. As it happens, it is a gift that will take young de Quincy into the very centers of power--and into the heart of danger, making him the Queen's man. Moving from the royal chambers in the Tower of London to the alehouses and stews of Southwark, from the horrors of Newgate Gaol to the bustling streets of Winchester, de Quincy proves his mettle as he tracks a brutal and cunning murderer and uncovers the sinister intrigues of Eleanor's court.