Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley
If you are like me, you most likely heard about Buckingham via Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. The real Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, is paradoxically more and less interesting.
Despite its title, this work of popular history is more of a straight biography then a presentation of what or who could have killed James I of England.
That is part of the problem. Considering the title of the book, the actual thesis of assassination doesn’t raise its head until the very end. This placement makes the title a bit misleading. True, the title isn’t the assassination of King James I, hinting at a biographer of an assassin, but the title does mislead.
As a popular biography of George Villiers, the history works. Woolley writes with energy and vigor, if at times a gossipy tone. He plays attention to the influence of the women in Villers life, but does not do the blame everything on wives and mothers route that some biographers do.
Yet, the fact that you are waiting for an assassination to raise its head does occur.
The book almost works as a biography though the later years of Buckingham’s life get short attention. It is almost as if Woolley is saying “here’s the man before the death of James I; don’t you think that he could have killed the king?”
And a thesis shouldn’t be a question.
Three stars because of the detail about Villiers, but if you want to read a historic mystery involving James I try Bellany or Somerset.