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Unicorn's Blood    by Patricia Finney order for
Unicorn's Blood
by Patricia Finney
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 1999
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Quoting from the author's historical note, 'This book is set in the period between the death of Sir Phillip Sidney in the Netherlands - October 1586 - and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots on February 1587 (modern dating), a year before the Spanish Armada of 1588, and four years after the events in Firedrake's Eye.'

Firedrake's Eye is a previous novel by the author set in Elizabethan times, and the two books have many historical characters in common. David Beckett and the Jew, Simon Ames from that book, also appear in Unicorn's Blood. So does Robert Carey, the hero of a number of excellent Elizabethan mysteries written by Patricia Finney's alter ego P. F. Chisholm.

The plot centres on the efforts of Elizabeth's Protestant advisers to persuade her to order the execution of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth is reluctant for practical political reasons, and also is afraid to set a precedent by the execution of a crowned, anointed queen. Both the Catholic priest Hart and the fanatical Protestant Davison are searching for a Book of the Unicorn, which contains secrets of a very young Elizabeth, which both hope to use to blackmail her.

Finney evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of sixteenth century England in all their sordid simplicity. She portrays the people; their usually primitive attitudes to pain and death, their frequent selfless heroisms, and their fanatical religious beliefs, with unerring grace and wit. Unicorn's Blood is a jewel of a book.

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