6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Old School Wednesdays: The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters

The Murders of Richard IIITitle: The Murders of Richard III

Author: Elizabeth Peters

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Avon
Publication date: First published 1974
Paperback: 352 pages

In a remote English manor house, modern admirers of the much-maligned King Richard III–one of Shakespeare’s most extraordinary villains–are gathered for a grand weekend of dress-up and make-believe murder. But the fun ends when the masquerade turns more sinister . . . and deadly. Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian on hand for the festivities, suddenly finds herself in the center of strange, dark doings . . . and racing to untangle a murderous puzzle before history repeats itself in exceptionally macabre ways.

Stand alone or series: Second in the Jaqueline Kirby series but can be read as a stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): print


A couple of months ago, news surfaced in England that a skeleton found beneath a car park in Leicester had been confirmed as that of King Richard III.

Historically, Richard III has been depicted as the hunchback tyrant who viciously killed his way to the throne, including his two young nephews. But that depiction has been argued to be based purely on Tudor propaganda to reinforce Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne after Richard’s demise in battle. Those who argue for the King are generally called Ricardians.

The story of how his body came to be found is pretty much AMAZING and is linked to the Richard III Society, whose aim is to promote research about the life of Richard III in order to reassess his positive role as English King and distance his image from that of a villain – in fact, many experts now claim that Richard III was actually a beloved non-villainous King. There is an excellent documentary on Channel 4 that depicts Richard III Society’s Philippa Langley’s quest to find the burial ground of the King. It’s a fascinating documentary but if you can’t find it, you can read all about it over at the Richard III Society’s website.

Around that time, I saw several posts recommending two older books that talk about Ricardians and the historical image of Richard III: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey and The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters. I got both and randomly picked the latter to read first for our Old School Wednesdays feature.

The Murders of Richard III is the first Elizabeth Peters novel I read that doesn’t star the amazing Amelia Peabody. It is the second book in another of the author’s series featuring American librarian cum amateur detective Jacqueline Kirby, and I had no problems reading this without having read the first book in the series.

The story is set in a Remote English Manor House, where a group of Ricardians are having one of their meetings, a weekend of boring talks and exciting dress-up medieval banquets. This one is special though, as their leader has recently found a letter which can prove once and for all that Richard III did not kill his nephews. Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian visiting her friend Thomas in England is part of the festivities, expected to examine the letter as an expert. Soon though, strange events start to take place and one by one, the guests start to fall victims to pranks that emulate exactly the murders that Richard III is supposed to have committed. Is this the work of anti-Ricardian? Or there could be worse things at play here?

One of the funnest parts of The Murders of Richard III is how self-aware and meta it is. It mentions not only The Daughter of Time but also many other mystery novels. It pokes fun at mystery tropes and conventions (one of the first things Jacqueline mentions is how every single guest falls under a stereotypical character i.e. the Vicar, the Doctor, etc) including the manner in which this specific crime is committed. Mystery-wise, there is nothing groundbreaking here and this fits squarely into what you’d expect from a cosy mystery.

I like Jacqueline Kirby (but not as much as I love Amelia Peabody): I like that she is ruthless and sarcastic and not exactly a super nice person and who sees power from being knowledgeable and proud of it. I like that she is an older, middle-aged character who is not portrayed as a matronly mother and who is empoweringly sexy and sensual.

The view point is Thomas’ but even though the narrative is not from her point of view – something I found very interesting – and is definitely coloured by Thomas’ expectation and image of her, the narrative still shows that she is very much in charge and in control in whatever situation she is in. This includes managing Thomas and his increasingly sense of entitlement with regards to a possible relationship between the two.

I had fun reading this but I suspect my enjoyment is partly due to knowing about the Ricardians beforehand. And in spite my enjoyment and appreciation for Jacqueline Kirby as a character, there was a lot of info-dumping about the life of Richard III and sadly, fat-shaming throughout the novel which made me really uncomfortable.

I will definitely be reading Daughter of Time soon to see how it compares.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

“…do you know why the detective doesn’t tell until the last chapter? So he won’t make a fool of himself in case he’s wrong.”

Additional Thoughts: Unrelated to the book but regarding Old School Wednesdays. We opened the poll (sidebar) for our May readalong. You can read more about the books up for vote HERE.

Rating: 6 – Good

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Ebook available for kindle US, nook

You Might Also Like


  • Trina
    April 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I recently read Daughter of Time due to the whole parking lot body thing. I enjoyed it quite a bit…it appeals to the nerdy librarian researcher in me. I’m interested to read this one as well. Can’t wait to see what you think about Daughter of Time.

  • hapax
    April 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I like Jacqueline Kirby and love Amelia Peabody, but my favorite Elizabeth Peters series is actually Vicky Bliss (ignoring the godawful hot mess that was the last one).

    Her series antagonist / love interest (it’s complicated) “John Smythe” is a big part of the appeal, of course, but it’s also the side characters (<3 Herr Professor Schmidt <3) and Vicky herself, a brilliant art historian whom nobody takes seriously because of her blonde-bimbo looks, and who is much more interested in her research and her amateur detective adventures than she is in her on-again, off-again romantic entanglements.

  • Britta
    April 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Another excellent RIII historical novel is Sharon Kay Penman’s “Sunne in Splendour”. It’s almost 1000 pages, so may not lend itself to fast reading/review material but amazingly well written and brings RIII and his time vividly to life.
    Thanx for this review; I’ll add the book to my TBR.

  • Misti
    April 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I grew up reading Elizabeth Peters and have some good memories of her books. I’m not sure how they would stand up now though. I couldn’t get into the Amelia Peabody books but I loved Vicky Bliss. She is my favorite Elizabeth Peter’s character. But I would start with book 2 – Street of the Five Moons, and not worry about the first book. I also liked one of her stand alones called Summer of the Dragon. It had a heroine who was a little overweight and liked to eat and her love interest liked her just the way she was. I just don’t see that often in books.

  • Kimberly B.
    April 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Seconding the Elizabeth Peters, and particularly Vicki Bliss and Summer of the Dragon, love from Misti and Hapax. I also think you would really like the third Jacqueline Kirby novel, Die for Love, which is set at a convention for romance writers. It’s been years since I read it (as many as twenty, perhaps), but I thought it was hysterical.

  • Eliza
    April 15, 2013 at 4:21 am

    Kimberly – I remember reading that Jacqueline Kirby book years ago and laughing out loud while reading it.

    I went on an Amelia Peabody kick last summer/fall and listened to all of the books. Two things I love about Elizabeth Peters’ female characters are:
    1) their unabashed sexuality. These women are sensual, sexual beings with no slut shaming or punishment for having slept with someone.
    2) They’re complex, flawed individuals who are loved in spite of or because of their flaws. But one of their flaws isn’t lack of self confidence.

    I haven’t read The Murders of Richard III but will put in on my list of commute reads – books that can stand short, interrupted bursts of reading.

Leave a Reply