Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross (Lady Appleton Series #4) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Susanna, Lady Appleton, has been mourning the supposed death of her husband Robert. Yet a coded message instructs Susanna to meet him in a London alehouse. When he does not appear, and a disguised Robert turns up dead beneath the Eleanor Cross, Lady Appleton is accused of the crime—and will hang unless she finds the true killer.

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Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross (Lady Appleton Series #4)

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Overview

Susanna, Lady Appleton, has been mourning the supposed death of her husband Robert. Yet a coded message instructs Susanna to meet him in a London alehouse. When he does not appear, and a disguised Robert turns up dead beneath the Eleanor Cross, Lady Appleton is accused of the crime—and will hang unless she finds the true killer.

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Editorial Reviews

Carolyn Thompson
Face Down Beneath the Eleanor Cross is a fast-paced and interesting evocation of the period. Emerson maintains the suspense right to the end. Like most mysteries, it is plot-driven but for the most part, the story provides a pleasant way to spend a few hours.
Mystery Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Emerson has the place names and customs right in this Elizabethan whodunnit set in 1565, but too often her lords and ladies and various commoners, despite the occasional archaism ("certes," "mayhap"), sound and act like stock characters in a modern crime melodrama. Somebody lures Lady Susanna Appleton (returning from Face Down Among the Winchester Geese) to a shady London tavern for a rendezvous with her estranged husband, Sir Robert Appleton. When Sir Robert doesn't appear, Susanna leaves. Shortly thereafter he falls dead at her feet, beneath one of London's landmarks, the Eleanor Cross. Well known as an herbalist and healer, Susanna is arrested for his murder, since witnesses claim to have seen her poison his food at the tavern earlier that day. That Eleanor has no motive is, oddly, never an issue. (This kind and educated woman had no illusions about Sir Robert's low character during her arranged marriage.) After a spell in Newgate prison, Susanna is released and sets out to find the real killer before she's tried and, if convicted, burned at the stake. The prime suspects are Sir Robert's several mistresses, whom Eleanor spends the next few months visiting throughout England. Everyone assembles back in London for her trial, where in improbable, Perry Mason fashion Susanna provokes her husband's murderer into making what amounts to a confession in front of judge and jury. While the killer's identity is far from predictable, sophisticated readers won't much care about it, as the author fails to give her characters sufficient depth against the historical backdrop. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Susanna, Lady Appleton (Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie), grieves over the supposed death of her husband but then receives a message to meet him. When he fails to appear and is then found dead, Susanna stands accused of his murder. For series followers and fans of Elizabethan mysteries. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000097250
  • Publisher: Belgrave House
  • Publication date: 2/1/2000
  • Series: Lady Appleton Series , #4
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 218,809
  • File size: 521 KB

Read an Excerpt

Westminster

January 3, 1565

"Back again, eh? 'E's gone on without ye. In a powerful hurry, 'e were, too."

Susanna Appleton broke off her survey of the tavern known as the Black Jack to stare at its proprietor. Until a moment ago, she'd never set foot in the place, but there might be some use in letting his misconception stand, especially if the mysterious "'e" turned out to be the man she sought. "How long ago did he leave?"

The tavernkeeper was shorter than she, a small, wiry man in a canvas apron. When he took a step closer, Susanna smelled garlic and stale, spilled wine, a pungent and unpleasant combination when trepidation had already made her queasy. A pockmarked face and brown teeth did nothing to alleviate her first, negative impression.

"Come and sit with old Ned, sweeting," he invited, leering at her, "and I'll tell you everything I know. But let's see what's under the 'ood this time."

Before she could stop him, he flipped the heavy wool away from her face, narrowing his eyes to get a better look. As he leaned in, the stench of his breath nearly made her gag.

Repulsed, Susanna backed away. Beneath her cloak, she fumbled for the small sharp knife suspended from the belt at her waist. She could expect no help from customers who frequented a place such as this, and for once she did not think it likely she'd be able to talk herself out of trouble.

The Black Jack Tavern was as disreputable as the lowest tippling house. A smoky fire burned in the chimney corner, spreading its murky light over four rickety trestle tables in a windowless, low-ceilinged room. Around them, occupying rough-hewn benches and stools, with not a chair insight, were more than a dozen patrons, men who appeared down on their luck and potentially dangerous. A few of them were eating, but most ignored offerings of cheese and meat pies in favor of beverages served in black jacks, wooden cans treated with pitch on the inside.

To Susanna's relief, a call for more beer distracted Ned. The moment he turned away, she fled, escaping into the narrow street outside.

Frigid air lanced through her like a thousand ice-tipped arrows. Hugging herself beneath her warm wool cloak, Susanna left the slight shelter of the building's overhang and started walking. Her heart was racing, but she no longer had any immediate fear for her safety.

When she reached the corner, she glanced back at the tavern. Its sign, showing a crudely painted black jack, creaked as a chilly gust of air set it swinging. A second pole bore a picture of leaves, proclaiming that wine, as well as beer and ale, could be found within.

Shivering and stamping her booted feet to keep warm, Susanna considered what to do next. She'd arrived almost an hour late, delayed by this uncommon cold weather. The Thames was frozen solid. She'd planned to hire a boat to take her across. Instead, she'd been obliged to walk, or rather to slip and slide, until she reached the opposite shore.

For whom had the tavernkeeper mistaken her? One cloaked and hooded woman looked much like another, she supposed, especially in a poorly lit room. But why would Robert have been with someone else when he was expecting her?

Her lips twisted into a mockery of a smile as Susanna silently answered her own question. With Robert, there always seemed to be another woman.

Their marriage had been arranged as soon as Susanna turned fourteen and solemnized when she was eighteen. Robert, then twenty-seven, had expected to acquire a quiet, obedient spouse, one content to remain in the background, to stay in the country while he was at the royal court. For the most part, at least in the early years, she had obliged him.

A door opened a few feet from where Susanna stood. Giving her a suspicious look, a shopkeeper hung out a lantern containing a candle. A hook had been set into the doorframe for that purpose.

The action served as a pointed reminder of the foolishness of remaining where she was when the sun was about to set. She'd come alone, as Robert's coded message had instructed. Now she was acutely aware that she was in a strange neighborhood without the protection of servant, friend, or husband.

Susanna was tall for a woman, and sturdily built. Along with a sharp mind and an inquisitive nature, both characteristics had been inherited from her father. Neither, however, made her any match for footpads or cutpurses. The fact that she had on her person a pouch containing the gold coins Robert had requested she bring with her rendered her even more conscious of her vulnerability.

Where was he?

Why had he not waited for her, especially if he was in need of money? Susanna was torn between relief and disappointment and beset by the same anxiety that had settled over her five days earlier, when she'd first opened the letter and realized it had come from Robert, a man most people supposed to be dead.

Leaving the environs of the Black Jack, she began to walk toward Charing, in the north part of Westminster. She'd suspected all along that Robert had not drowned eighteen months earlier. Seeming to do so had provided too neat a solution to his problems at the time. And to her own.

Susanna had allowed others to persuade her to declare him dead and go on with her life. She'd had no real choice, and it had scarce been a hardship, not when the result was complete control over all Robert had owned. She was honest enough with herself to admit she enjoyed the freedom her false widowhood entailed. In her opinion, the advantages of the married state were much overrated.

During the previous year and a half, while waiting for some word of or from her "dead" spouse, Susanna had come to the conclusion that Robert must have planned well, secreting funds sufficient to spirit him safely out of England. She'd begun to think she'd never see him again. On the other hand, she had not been unduly surprised to receive what amounted to a demand that she secretly come to him and bring with her a considerable sum in gold.

Despite the acrimonious nature of their relationship, she and Robert knew each other well. He'd have had no doubt she'd obey. Her sense of honor compelled her to comply with his wishes, no matter how much she resented doing so.

She had made certain vows when they wed. Robert might hold them in little regard, but Susanna had always been a woman of her word. As long as her husband lived, she was bound by her obligations to him. For that reason, she had come to Westminster in secret, and she had not betrayed Robert's whereabouts to his enemies.

This would be their last meeting, she'd decided on the long, cold journey from her home in rural Kent. They would clear the air between them. She'd remind him that he had a most pressing reason not to be seen by anyone who might recognize him. Then she would explain that the money she'd brought, invested wisely, should be sufficient to allow him to live comfortably for the rest of his life. If he followed her advice, he'd have no need to contact her again.

At Charing, where King Street met the Strand and both noisy thoroughfares were crowded enough to make Susanna feel safe, she paused in front of a bookseller's shop and contemplated her next move. The buildings directly across from her comprised the Royal Mews. In spite of the name, which implied the presence of falcons and other hunting birds, this mews housed the queen's horses. Robert had been wont to leave his own mount there when he was in attendance on Queen Elizabeth. On such occasions, when he could not secure a bed in the palace or impose upon the hospitality of friends with lodgings in the vicinity, it had also been his custom to take a room in a nearby inn called the Swan.

She would spend the night there, Susanna decided. It was possible that Robert, following her logic, would look for her at that inn. If he did not, then in the morning she would return to Leigh Abbey. She had, she assured herself, obeyed every instruction in the coded letter. After a dozen years of betrayals, her sense of obligation was worn thin. Any true affection for Robert Appleton had long since withered and died.

Susanna had just turned toward the Swan when she heard a commotion erupt behind her. Shouts and laughter drew her attention to the ornate Eleanor Cross at the center of the intersection.

Like similar memorials in Cheapside and thirteen other locations throughout England, this Eleanor Cross had been erected by King Edward I to mark one of the stopping places of his beloved queen's funeral cortege. A tower of Caen stone, decorated with sculptured scenes from the life of Christ, and with Eleanor of Castile's image and arms, rose above a flight of stone stairs.

In the last rays of the setting sun, Susanna saw a man, apparently much the worse for drink, struggle to climb them. His slow progress was marked by considerable weaving and stumbling. To the delight of the jeering, hooting crowd that quickly gathered to watch him, he suddenly clutched at his throat and tottered, his footing precarious on the icy surface of the top step.

Beset by an uneasy premonition, Susanna joined the throng moving toward the cross. She was too far away to do more than gasp when the man seemed to lose control of his legs. Before anyone could aid him, he tumbled headfirst down the stairs, losing his bonnet on the way and striking his unprotected skull several times before his limp form came to rest at the base of the monument.

A sudden hush fell over the spectators. The man lay still, sprawled face down at the foot of the stairs. Bright blood stained the back of a bald head. That, together with the unnatural angles of his limbs, made it likely he was beyond human help.

All the same, Susanna stepped closer. She was a skilled herbalist. A healer. If any spark of life remained, she felt obliged to do what she could to ease the fellow's pain and suffering.

Another would-be Samaritan reached the body ahead of her, turning it over only to recoil in revulsion.

At first, in the rapidly fading twilight, Susanna did not recognize the dead man. She did not know anyone who was both completely bald and clean shaven.

Then someone brought a lantern forward. Silhouetted by its light was a familiar profile of brow and nose and chin.

Susanna heard a choked sound and realized with a dull sense of surprise that she had made it. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, struggling to exert some measure of control over her rapidly fluctuating emotions.

The dead man was her husband, Sir Robert Appleton.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2011

    Lady Appleton

    Is my favorite Lady Slueth!

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  • Posted December 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    meh

    a bit much for my taste. way too many boring details of the law.. will read one more and see. i'm growing tired of the mistakes in these books ( both spelling and punctuation).
    ETA: I really really really dislike Eleanor. I just bought the next book in the series and found out to my dismay Eleanor is in that one too. MAJOR BUMMER!!!! I can't stand that character!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2000

    Face Down Beneath the Eleanor Cross

    Officially, he died from drowning. Though eighteen months have passed since that declaration, the deceased's spouse Susanna Appleton rejects the finding. She knows that she has been married to Robert for too many years for her to be so easily rid of him. Her belief is proven accurate when Roberts sends her a note demanding she bring a large amount of gold to him. Though she no longer loves her husband, Susanna feels bound to honor her marital vows. She leaves Leigh Abbey to travel to London for her rendezvous with Robert........ When Susanna arrives at their appointed locale, the innkeeper mistakes her for another woman who was kissing Robert while sitting on his lap. Susanna learns that Robert has already left the sleazy Black Jack Inn. She leaves to find lodging in a better neighborhood. While looking at the nearby Eleanor Cross, Susanna sees a man fall to his death. Based on what she observed, the noted herbalist feels someone poisoned the victim. The innkeeper testifies that Susanna was the last person seen with the dead person. The police arrest her, placing her in Newgate while awaiting trial for murder. Her good friends in high places obtain her temporary release, but Susanna plans to uncover the truth before she is burned at the stake...... Kathy Lynn Emerson has written another exciting Elizabethan mystery that stars a memorable and likable heroine. FACE DOWN BENEATH THE ELEANOR CROSS has been so meticulously researched it feels as if Ms. Emerson was there to document the tale. Reminiscent of the best of Gellis and Penman, this novel deserves awards while encouraging readers to find the previous three tales in a rewarding series......Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Face Down Beneath the Eleanor Cross

    Officially, he died from drowning. Though eighteen months have passed since that declaration, the deceased's spouse Susanna Appleton rejects the finding. She knows that she has been married to Robert for too many years for her to be so easily rid of him. Her belief is proven accurate when Roberts sends her a note demanding she bring a large amount of gold to him. Though she no longer loves her husband, Susanna feels bound to honor her marital vows. She leaves Leigh Abbey to travel to London for her rendezvous with Robert. <P>When Susanna arrives at their appointed locale, the innkeeper mistakes her for another woman who was kissing Robert while sitting on his lap. Susanna learns that Robert has already left the sleazy Black Jack Inn. She leaves to find lodging in a better neighborhood. While looking at the nearby Eleanor Cross, Susanna sees a man fall to his death. Based on what she observed, the noted herbalist feels someone poisoned the victim. The innkeeper testifies that Susanna was the last person seen with the dead person. The police arrest her, placing her in Newgate while awaiting trial for murder. Her good friends in high places obtain her temporary release, but Susanna plans to uncover the truth before she is burned at the stake. <P>Kathy Lynn Emerson has written another exciting Elizabethan mystery that stars a memorable and likable heroine. FACE DOWN BENEATH THE ELEANOR CROSS has been so meticulously researched it feels as if Ms. Emerson was there to document the tale. Reminiscent of the best of Gellis and Penman, this novel deserves awards while encouraging readers to find the previous three tales in a rewarding series. <P>Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 15, 2010

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