Cover image for The twylight tower : an Elizabeth I mystery
The twylight tower : an Elizabeth I mystery
Harper, Karen (Karen S.)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
289 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



Elizabethan England -- in all its pomp and pageantry, deadly intrigue and scandal -- comes alive in Karen Harper's magnificent new novel, the third work in her acclaimed Elizabeth I mystery series. Now the author of The Poyson Garden and The Tidal Poole brings us another captivating mystery, as young Bess Tudor stands on the threshold of her extraordinary destiny -- as a queen and as a woman. It is May 1560. Less than two years have passed since the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn ascended the throne. As sinister storm clouds gather overhead, twenty-six-year-old Queen Elizabeth bids Godspeed to William Cecil, her most trusted adviser, on his way to Scotland for crucial negotiations. Handsome, ambitious Lord Robert Dudley is at her side. Months later, there he remains, his fragile wife, Amy, tucked away in the country, far from Elizabeth's court. But their leisurely midsummer idyll is cut abruptly short when the court's master lutenist plunges to his death from a parapet beneath the queen's window. The loyal servants of Elizabeth's privy council do not accept the official verdict of accidental death. Their fears are borne out when another tragedy rocks the realm, and points the way to a conspiracy to bring down Elizabeth and seize the throne. As ill winds of treachery swirl and eddy around the royal court, and suspicion falls on those within Elizabeth's intimate circle of trusted allies and admirers, a vengeful enemy slips from the shadows ... a traitorous usurper who would be sovereign. With The Twylight Tower, Karen Harper once again brings a legendary era to vivid life, drawing us into an intoxicating world of majesty and mayhem, political intrigue and adventure ... where danger is everywhere ... and where a young queen journeys to greatness in the long shadow of her bloodstained past.

Author Notes

Karen Harper is also the author of a number of contemporary suspense & historical novels. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, & Naples, Florida.

(Publisher Provided)

Karen Harper was born on April 6, 1945 in Toledo, Ohio. She attended Ohio University in Athens and earned her undergraduate degree. She went on to Ohio State University in Columbus for her graduate degree. She landed a teaching position in English at Ohio State University. She soon began writing historical and contemporary fiction. Her first book, Sweet Passion's Pain, was published in 1984. It was later published as The First Princess of Wales in 2006. She has written several series including: The Maplecreek Series, The Home Valley Series, The Queen Elizabeth I Series and Cold Creek Series. Her titles often make the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harper pulls off the difficult feat of peopling her mystery with historical figures in the sixteenth century who wear their historical trappings lightly, so that we accept the tale without overmuch concern. Her attention to the details of the Elizabethan court--dress, food, pomp and circumstance--works very well, and her Elizabeth is a brilliant and willful young woman in her mid-twenties. Elizabeth's favorite lutenist dies in a fall from a parapet, and his replacement is a mysterious young person who knows too much but plays like an angel. Elizabeth is distracted by the attentions of the decorative, and married, Lord Robert Dudley, but not so much that she is unaware of the stakes of the game she plays to rule both her land and her emotions. There's another death, and then Lord Robert's wife, the pinched and ill Amy, dies in a fall. Conspiracies and lies within lies take the story through twists and turns, as the young queen tries to decide whom to trust and in the end finds only herself. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

This third book in Harper's Elizabeth I series features a "she-can-do-it-all" protagonist and a plot that fails to fully quicken. It is a tale grown from a kernel of historical fact the murder of Amy Robsart Dudley, wife to horse master Robert Dudley, with whom the queen is besotted. Amy's untimely death and a mellifluous lutenist's suspicious demise lead to the uncovering of a conspiracy to wrest the crown from the young queen, now versed in sniffing out murdering pretenders to the throne. Elizabeth is less successful in capturing the reader. Having strained to depict the queen as stalwart sovereign and sometime sleuth, Harper also struggles to underscore Elizabeth's old-fashioned femininity, and there is more than a whiff of cloying romance here as well. We are repeatedly alerted to the "slim body" swathed in floral-scented robes in which the queen's fine mind resides, and are privy to moments in which she pines expectantly for her ruggedly handsome Dudley. But this queen is also a feminist, and when her feelings for Dudley become common knowledge and are frowned upon, she ponders righteously the asymmetrical expectations that women and men face: "Why could a queen not carry on as a king and to hell with what people thought? Must a woman's reputation be so much more pristine and precious than a man's?" Those with a firmly entrenched proclivity for historical fiction and romance may be able to overlook such patches of clumsy prose and clich‚. (Mar. 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When Queen Elizabeth's favored lutenist falls to his death from a parapet at Richmond Palace, she at first suspects an accident brought on by too much drink. However, in their third mystery (after The Tidal Poole and The Poyson Garden), members of her "Privy Plot Council" (Meg the herbalist, Ned the actor, Jenks the stable hand, et al.) begin sleuthing into the numerous intrigues at court. Not until another near-fatal "accident" occurs does Elizabeth, besotted with the married but charming and seductive Robert Dudley, undertake a secret investigation. Harper's exquisite mastery of the period, lively dialog, energetic plot, devious characters, and excellent rendition of the willful queen makes this a pleasure for fans of historical mysteries. Essential for all collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Pastime with good company I love and shall until I die. Grudge who will but none deny May God be pleased, thus live will I For my pastance, hunt, sing, and dance My heart is set on goodly sport For my comfort, who shall me let? -- King Henry VIII July 28, 1560 William Cecil strode rapidly from his hired barge through the edge of town to Richmond Palace. Though but forty years old, the pounding ride from Edinburgh had made mincemeat of his muscles, so he'd managed to come the last few miles on the Thames. Usually he was glad to see the tower-topped silhouette of Richmond, the queen's favorite summer home, but today he wasn't so sure. Rumors the queen was besotted with Robert Dudley were rampant, even in the northern shires, and he could tell from afar she was letting her royal duties slide. Did she think the business of her kingdom could go on a holiday at her whim? He'd been away from court two months, and that was two months too long. Cecil stopped and stared at the looming palace. Situated eight miles outside London with thick orchards and a game-filled park embracing it, Richmond offered all sorts of pleasant diversions and escapes, though this visit promised neither. As he gripped the leather satchel with his important papers close to his chest, hoping something would calm him, his eyes skimmed the balanced beauty of the place. Unlike jumbled Whitehall, the queen's principal palace in London, the main structure here had been laid out in a planned and orderly fashion. It was a place after his own heart, he thought as he trudged across the outer quadrangle. The first Tudor ruler, the queen's grandfather, King Henry VII, a stern and disciplined man, had overseen Richmond's construction. Ironic, Cecil mused, that his heir, Henry VIII, was of the opposite disposition, all passion, appetites, and swagger. And their heir Elizabeth? Somehow she was both personalities at war with each other. "Good for you, Lord Secretary, settling the Scots war with profit for our England!" someone called to him from a cluster of courtiers as he entered the gate to the middle court. He lifted his free arm in reply, but kept going toward the entrance to the state apartments, a series of rooms with the finest views in the vast place. Out one set of windows was the great hall in all its Gothic splendor, and in the opposite direction, the stunning chapel royal. Glancing up, one saw various of the fourteen towers of the palace proper with their bright banners and gilded weather vanes, not to mention the eastward river view over lush gardens and orchards. Human traffic thickened the closer Cecil got to the queen through the presence chamber, then the gallery to the privy chamber. He recognized most courtiers; a few gave him good day, but he kept going at a swift clip so as not to be drawn into conversations. Still, more than once he was sure he heard the sibilant whispers of the words Scots and Cecil , interspersed with the duller, drumlike thud of Dudley , Dudley . Beyond the next closed set of double doors lay the royal withdrawing room, bedroom, bathroom, and library, among other privy chambers, but still he saw no queen to greet him. With each step he became more annoyed. He'd specifically instructed the two messengers he'd sent ahead yesterday to request that he see Her Majesty privily before they faced her council together about this treaty he'd sweated and nitpicked over to get her the most advantageous terms from the rough Scots and prideful French. Not only was no one prepared to welcome him, but not even to receive him. So as not to seem as frustrated as he felt, Cecil slowed his steps through the privy chamber. The queen's ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor sat about on cushions, chatting and embroidering, playing with lapdogs and an azure parrot that kept squawking, "Yes, Your Grace! Yes, Your Grace!'' Why had these women not been sent out? And where was the queen herself in this giggling coterie? He'd insist the First Lady of the Bedchamber, Katherine Ashley, whom he saw looking out the open oriel window, dispatch these women forthwith. As if he'd called her name, the dignified, silver-haired Lady Kat Ashley turned to him. Looking relieved, she smiled and picked her way toward him through the puddles of brocade and taffeta skirts. Kat had been Elizabeth's governess years ago and had stuck with her through tough times before Queen Mary died and Elizabeth finally inherited her throne. In fact Kat was the closest Her Majesty had ever known to a mother, as her own, Queen Anne Boleyn, had been beheaded when Elizabeth was but three. "My Lady Ashley," Cecil intoned as he swept off his cap and inclined his head. "Would you please request Her Majesty see me -- in private?" "I've been keeping an eye out for you, my Lord Secretary. Thank God you're back safely, as you know my steadying hand on Her Grace has not been heeded of late, and it's been worse since you left." "What's amiss?" he demanded as they huddled closer. The chatter and giggles muted and, without looking, he knew everyone was watching them. "Will you bid Her Majesty come out to see me now and clear this ... gaggle of pretty geese?" he went on, keeping his voice low. "She's not here," Kat whispered, lifting her gray eyebrows conspiratorially. "That is, not within, though everyone out here believes so. You'll have to go to her, I fear." I fear. Those words snagged in Cecil's mind. What was Kat not telling him? What had he not sniffed out from his allies at court who should have kept him better informed? "You don't mean," he said, nearly mouthing his words, his back to the women, "she's covertly gone off on her own somewhere on secret business when she promised us she would not? I repeat, what is amiss?" Twice Elizabeth Tudor had probed and solved crimes that threatened her person, enlisting the aid of several of her most loyal servants as well as Kat, Cecil, and her cousin Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon. But, praise God, there had been no such threat since her coronation one and a half years ago. Cecil had been hoping that Her Majesty would not so endanger herself again. "No, not solving some dire crime again," Kat clipped out, forgetting to whisper. "Come in with me, and I'll explain." Excerpted from The Twylight Tower: An Elizabeth I Mystery by Karen Harper All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.