This is the debut novel of Megan Goodenough; I think she has a great imagination and did a fair job with a complicated Tudor historical mystery/spy story set in the current day. It has a spunky main character, a handsome, enigmatic tough guy who becomes her guardian, and lots of twists and turns.
Cas is a young woman who leaves London for Brighton, fleeing from her former life, at least for a while. She works in a jewelry store while house-sitting a flat. She and her good friend Lacey make it a habit of bar hopping at night, with Cas frequently drinking to oblivion. One night Lacey mysteriously disappears and Cas ends up in the hospital as a result of her binge. Lacey leaves behind a series of cryptic clues to an Elizabethan treasure, which Cas assumes is some of Elizabeth’s jewels but in reality lead to a modern and very dangerous conspiracy. Cas begins to take the clues seriously when she is attacked by a ruthless thug who is also looking for Lacey.
Hunted by criminals and pursued by a former Russian spy, Cas races across England pursuing clues and is helped along the way by Reuben, who claims he works for an insurance company. Cas alternates between trusting him and trying to lose him. Cas ultimately uncovers a society of women who have played an integral role in British history, bound by an oath they’ve held for a thousand years.
I loved the opening part of the prologue, set in the summer of 1563, when Queen Elizabeth’s closest lady-in-waiting smuggles a girl child, delivered by Elizabeth and called Rose, out of the palace to be raised in anonymity. Then the scene changes to the present day and a cryptic conversation between two women about one of their girls whose name came up in a dispatch order; a man is sent to keep an eye on her, and I was left wondering what was going on. Chapter One then follows Lacey and Cas on their drunken night out, being tracked by Reuben. By the time Cas is attacked by a thug sent by someone other than those who sent Reuben, I was lost. I did a reread but was still somewhat confused.
Cas is well drawn, but the clues she deciphers are so obscure that I was awed at her intuition. Reuben is amazing at showing up to save her at just the right times, always vanquishing the bad guys. Eventually it is revealed the thug who originally attacked Cas was sent by Lacey’s mother, who is a cruel and determined criminal. I remain somewhat unclear about her motives.
Thus the main problem I had with the book is trying to wrap my head around all the various plot lines, players and their different goals: Cas following clues, Reuben sent to watch her, criminals trying to stop her, and then the Russian thrown in for good measure.
It is clear that the author is knowledgeable of Elizabethan history and she is skilled at story telling; her writing is smooth. I do recommend this book to readers who like mysteries with a historical component and I will look for the next book by this author.
About the author:
Megan Goodenough is a graduate of York University with a degree in archaeology, Megan been short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, long-listed for the TS Eliot award and won a with BBC Writers’ Room competition. Her short fiction has been published by the Londonist Magazine.
A Company of Roses can be found at Amazon, Amazon UK, and on Kindle: