The Widow's Guild is the third Francis Bacon mystery in the series and, as such, it functions as both a stand-alone read and (even better) as an expansion of the prior mystery's themes. Set in the politically stormy summer of 1588, the Spanish armada has been defeated, and Francis Bacon is involved not in a political war but in a personal battle when his assistant is accused of murder and locked in the Tower after trysting with a rich newlywed.
Bacon is tasked with proving his assistant's innocence, which seems a fairly predictable turn of events given his relationship with the man and political connections that turn to him to solve cases of high-profile murders. What is less predictable (and wonderfully engrossing) is the turn of events that leads Bacon to realize that the real perp has something more insidious in mind than a singular crime.
As the nation recovers from months of war and Bacon undertakes a more dangerous battle on the home front, it quickly becomes evident that what drives The Widows Guild is not a politically charged atmosphere nor even a killer's questionable motives: it's author Castle's attention to building historical atmosphere and intriguing twists that ply men and women against one another and expose some of the emotional perceptions of each sex.
Accidents that turn into strokes of luck, books with messages, and Bacon's own confrontation with his role in society and its effect upon others are steeped in the cultural and social atmosphere of its times and bring characters and events to life.
The result is a historical mystery that excels in depth as it presents a saga of vengeance and change, discussing character and theories of murder that takes Bacon his and readers on a whirlwind tour from dungeons to mansions in search of answers that question the very tenants guiding his life and actions.
Fans of historical mysteries will find this book just as captivating and well-done as the rest in a highly recommended read brimming with action and captivating scenarios.