Francis Crawford of Lymond is sent by the French King to the Island of Malta where the Knights Hospitallers are threatened by an invasion from the Turks. While there Francis is caught up in the politics of the Knights, in particular one Graham Malett who the reader will discover is not at all what he and his convent raised sister are what they appear to be on the surface. As Dunnett slowly peels back the layers of her story, the reader is taken from Malta to embattled Tripoli and then back again to Scotland as Francis intrigues to discover Graham’s hidden agendas. To say much more would give away the whole plot, but be prepared for some memorable moments that will stick with you for long after the book is finished. The scene with the sheep (LOL), the nail biting suspense in Tripoli as they try to defuse the flame before Tripoli is blown to bits and of course the final climax during the sword fight between Lymond and his greatest enemy.
Throughout, Francis Crawford is a fascinating hero, and is as suave, debonair, flawed and fascinating as only a 16th Century version of James Bond could be. This is a complicated tale, and one that a reader has to pay close attention to, if you let your mind wander you may have to back track occasionally as I did. Dunnett is also very subtle (sometimes too much so!) and you do have to wait until the very end when all is revealed during a heart stopping sword fight in an Edinburgh cathedral, and a big surprise for Francis that will have you scrambling for the next book in the series, Pawn in Frankincense: Fourth in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles.