Uneasy Lies the Crown
#13 Lady Emily
by Tasha Alexander
Publisher: Macmillan | Imprint: Minotaur
Formats available: Paperback, eBook, Audio
Pub Date: 10.30.18| 304 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
E-arc provided by publisher through NetGalley for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
In Uneasy Lies the Crown, the thrilling new mystery in Tasha Alexander’s bestselling series, Lady Emily and her husband Colin must stop a serial killer whose sights may be set on the new king, Edward VII.
On her deathbed, Queen Victoria asks to speak privately with trusted agent of the Crown, Colin Hargreaves, and slips him a letter with one last command: Une sanz pluis. Sapere aude. “One and no more. Dare to know.”
The year is 1901 and the death of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch has sent the entire British Empire into mourning. But for Lady Emily and her dashing husband, Colin, the grieving is cut short as another death takes center stage. A body has been found in the Tower of London, posed to look like the murdered medieval king Henry VI. When a second dead man turns up in London’s exclusive Berkeley Square, his mutilated remains staged to evoke the violent demise of Edward II, it becomes evident that the mastermind behind the crimes plans to strike again.
The race to find the killer takes Emily deep into the capital’s underbelly, teeming with secret gangs, street children, and sleazy brothels—but the clues aren’t adding up. Even more puzzling are the anonymous letters Colin has been receiving since Victoria’s death, seeming to threaten her successor, Edward VII. With the killer leaving a trail of dead kings in his wake, will Edward be the next victim?
A bizarre death scene straight out of a Shakespeare play, a mysterious note from a dying queen, and Lady Emily is off on her next investigative adventure. I enjoy the devotion to the late Victorian era settings, attention to detail for cultural and social setting of the time, and the obscure mysteries that aren’t always easy to figure out in this series. But, that said, this installment left me rather disappointed.
Uneasy Lies the Crown is book thirteen in the Lady Emily series. It wouldn’t be a problem to read it out of turn or standalone, but be warned that the personal lives of the recurring characters have developed through the course of the series.
All right… what to say… in truth, this was not a good showing in the series. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if I should even continue the series because of things that keep cropping up in the last three or four books. Before that, I would claim to be a solid fan and in love with everything I was reading, but now it’s nearly the opposite.
While I am still very much impressed with the author’s careful attention to historical detail and facts and social issues in both the time lines she chose to write and her lavish way of painting these details into her story are incredibly well done, I am finding myself less and less enamored with Lady Emily herself and with the actual mysteries.
Emily has become downright smug and autocratic. She knows best and she will have her way. I’m not sure if it is the author’s attempt to portray a confident woman in her thirties, or if Alexander is feeling the fervor of feminism and instilling it in her character when I thought Emily was already a woman ahead of her time all along with her thinking and interests. Either are worthy and I’m all for it, but not at the expense of overbalancing into an unlikable person I wanted to kick in the seat of her skirts every time she opened her mouth.
She bossed around her husband who couldn’t solve even a little puzzle without her nagging at him repeatedly (yes, I do mean nagging) or analyze obvious facts uncovered (where was my trained, skilled, intelligent Colin who has always been Emily’s equal in this one?). She bossed around poor Jeremy and blackmailed him into taking her into stupidly dangerous situations (when there was no real emergency) by insisting that if he didn’t drive her now she was going alone and wouldn’t he feel bad about that because she was too impatient (and self-important) to wait for safe back-up. She bulldozed her way into the lives of several poor people and told them how they were screwing up their lives after less than a minute of their acquaintance and insisted they owed her personal details like some busy body rich matron.
Yeah, I just shook my head through most of this. Emily was never like this until recent books in the series. I think the final straw was sensing an attempt to turn her into someone she’s not. I thought it was my imagination that she was starting to act like Elizabeth Peter’s heroine, Amelia Peabody, until there was an actual mention of Emily’s fascination for her and attempt to go about poking and prodding people with a parasol. As far as I’m concerned, this alteration is a grave mistake. Amelia is Amelia and Emily is…not. Emily was fine and fascinating just the way she was from the beginning.
But, it wasn’t just Emily’s character lobotomy. The mystery just wasn’t that engaging. I felt it really suffered when it was broken up every few pages by a story from the time of King Henry the Fifth in the fourteenth century. It says a lot that I was more interested in the story of Colin’s ancestors who were the focus of the older story than the current mystery and that story wasn’t that suspenseful. It felt so loose and flighty. I was well ahead all along figuring it out and was pushing myself to stay interested.
I look back on this book and wonder what I just read. The historical backdrop was fabulous, the mystery barely showed up and the characters, with the exception of Jeremy ,were not themselves. I’m sad because I think I’m done and this was a beloved series I anticipated each new release. I can still highly recommend most of the earlier books in the series to historical mystery fans.