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The Poison Bed (Trade paperback)

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The most powerful man in England, his lover and his lover's wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the country. A celebrity couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is rich and powerful.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the crime.

Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose?

Who is willing to commit murder?

Author: E C Fremantle

Trade Paperback, 416 Pages, Published 2018



"EC Fremantle’s The Poison Bed is also based on a true story, which took place in London more than three centuries earlier. The arrest of power couple Robert and Frances Carr for the poisoning of courtier Sir Thomas Overbury set tongues wagging in 1615, not least because Carr was a favourite of James I and Frances was a scion of the aristocratic Howard family. Fremantle uses many of the facts as the bedrock for a tale of intrigue and ambition in which rival factions jockey, sometimes fatally, to cement their power bases at court. A place in the king’s bed means the handsome but gormless Carr is promoted beyond his abilities and relies on the far cleverer Overbury for guidance – until the pair fall out over whether he should wed Frances, whose family, desiring advancement, are seeking the annulment of her existing marriage to free her up for this more advantageous union. When Overbury refuses the position of ambassador to the court of Russia, an irate King James consigns him to the Tower of London, where he falls ill and dies in mysterious circumstances. As Robert and Frances pass the narrative baton between them it slowly becomes clear that Frances may not be the helpless pawn that she first appears … Although their characterisation would have benefited from more subtlety, this is a rich and fascinating book, all the more welcome for being set in a period that tends to be neglected by writers of historical crime." The Guardian

Recommended by Graeme:

"The author has taken a real-life scandal in the time of James I of England and crafted an intriguing and highly atmospheric novel about these salacious events. Robert Carr was a favourite of King James I and although it is argued by historians as to whether or not they were lovers, E.C. Fremantle takes the view that they were. As sodomy was a crime in those times, naturally any evidence of their intimacy is impossible to come by. But before Robert caught the eye of the King, he was involved with Sir Thomas Overbury, who never quite got over being supplanted by a better prospect. Overbury became an irritant and eventually a threat to Robert Carr, his new wife Frances and her powerful family (the Howards), and even to the King. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Overbury took ill and then died, which was convenient to many, until rumours that he was poisoned began to circulate and gain credence. Eventually both Robert Carr and his wife Frances were arrested and stood trial on charges of murder. The novel has been cleverly structured with Robert and Frances telling their stories in alternating chapters from their cells in the Tower of London. Frances Carr is a fascinating figure and she is portrayed here by the author as highly calculating and ambitious. She was married off at fourteen, a union which she managed to have annulled years later. This left her free to marry Robert Carr who she had fallen in love with. But with his access to the King, this was also a union which was highly desirable for the Howard family. Witchcraft, poisoned jellies, lethal enemas, executions, and even a medical examination to prove virginity, this scandalous case really does offer a wealth of eye-raising incidents - and E.C. Fremantle has done a superlative job in bringing it all to atmospheric life. For those readers who prefer fact or just want to know more, Hachette have recently reissued Anne Somerset’s non-fiction work on the case Unnatural Murder: Poison in the Court of James I ."



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