Silent Water is the first book in the Jagiellon mystery series, which is set in Poland during the 1500s.
Told from the point of view of Contessa Caterina Sanseverino, a lady-in-waiting to Poland’s Queen Bona, the story revolves around a murder during the Christmas celebrations of 1519. Caterina becomes involved in solving the murder, a job made more difficult because she must also oversee the other younger ladies-in-waiting. Keeping them in hand during the Christmas period is especially hard in a court filled with exuberant celebrations, and it hampers Caterina’s investigations.
I’ve read a few medieval stories, but I have never come across the history of Poland from this era. The historical elements were well-written and easy to follow as was the murder mystery. The hardest part for me was keeping up with all of the characters, mainly because I found the Polish names hard to pronounce to myself. However, the author provides a list of names with helpful pronunciations at the beginning for those, like me, who may find them a challenge.
A solid piece of historical fiction; my only complaint was the quantity of characters, as I struggled to remember who they all were.
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It is Christmas 1519 and the royal court in Kraków is in the midst of celebrating the joyous season. Less than two years earlier, Italian noblewoman Bona Sforza arrived in Poland’s capital from Bari as King Zygmunt’s new bride. She came from Italy accompanied by a splendid entourage, including Contessa Caterina Sanseverino who oversees the ladies of the Queen’s Chamber.
Caterina is still adjusting to the life in this northern kingdom of cold winters, unfamiliar customs, and an incomprehensible language when a shocking murder rocks the court on Christmas night. It is followed by another a few days later. The victims have seemingly nothing in common. Gossip, speculation, and suspicion are rife, but the perpetrator remains elusive as the court heads into the New Year.
As the official investigation stalls, Caterina—aided by Sebastian Konarski, a junior secretary in the king’s household—sets out to find the killer. With clues beginning to point to the queen’s innermost circle, the pair are soon racing against time to stop another murder.
Silent Water is a story of power and its abuse, and the extremes to which a person may go to find redress for justice denied. Although set at the dawn of the Renaissance era, its themes carry uncanny parallels to some of the most topical social issues of the 21st century.