The great thing about this book is the transcript of the coroner's report of Robert Dudley's wife's death in 1560, found at last by Dr. Steven Gunn in The Natinonal Archives. It says that she had a broken neck and two wounds at unspecified locations on her head, one of which would have involved some form of skull fracture. Since such injuries are not uncommon in serious and fatal stair falls, and since the report is a 16th century piece of paper and not the actual body, it must remain inconclusive. Skidmore concedes that its findings are compatible with an accidental downstairs fall (the jury's verdict); he should have given this possibility more consideration, however. He instead goes on to make a case that Amy Dudley was first poisoned for some 18 months and then murdered by over-assiduous men of Dudley's following without their master's knowledge; in the end he hints that Dudley, and possibly the Queen, did somehow influence the jury.
Skidmore did consult some manuscripts and gives some exciting material, including three photos of manuscript letters by Amy and Robert Dudley. However, apart from a number of astonishing misattributions (e.g., one alleged quotation by Dudley is in fact by the Spanish ambassador de Silva), the forcing of documents into a totally misleading context to press an argument is a recurrent feature. A typical example: As proof of the alleged extreme loyalty of Dudley's servants to their master (which the author needs for his murder theory), Skidmore quotes the military oath of allegiance to Robert Dudley as Lieutenant-General of the Queen's forces for the Netherlands expedition of 1587, 27 years after Amy's death. Skidmore implies that oath was common practice in the Dudley household in 1560!
In many instances, Skidmore falsifies the picture by suppressing facts and by misrepresenting sources. For example, in order to argue that Amy Dudley was not ill, the author goes so far as to make the Spanish ambassador's archival original, "está muy mala de un pecho" (she is very ill in one breast), into "enferma y mala de un pecho" (sick and ill in one breast). From the fact that Lady Amy speaks of her husband as "my lord" in a letter he deduces that she held him in awe. Now, he must know it was absolute standard for a wife to speak of her husband as her "lord", "my lord's" etc. Even Juliet talks of Romeo as her lord as soon as they are secretly married. More striking examples of these problems are the accounts of Dudley's affairs with Lady Douglas Sheffield and Lettice Knollys; they are deeply flawed and distorted, as is much of the political narrative of the book. By witholding vital facts the author paints Dudley, and only him, in an unattractive light: even when he redeems a diamond of Amy's from a pawn-broker after her death, this shows his selfish, materialistic nature: "Jewels, Dudley must have considered, would be wasted on the dead."
After brief discussion, the accident and suicide options vanish mid-way and the book focuses entirely on one murder theory; any alternative murder scenarios are never mentioned. The "murder evidence" rests on the appearance of Sir Richard Verney (a Warwickshire gentleman in whose house Lady Amy had formerly stayed) as organizer of the killing in a c.1563 gossip chronicle and in the satirical libel "Leicester's Commonwealth" of 1584. Scholars have pointed out for years that this proves nothing but that there was a tradition of gossip involving Verney. As is stated even in the 1563 chronicle itself, it was by no means inside information but common talk. However, Skidmore is generally not squeamish about sources. He also ignores incongruities throughout, for example, he presupposes that the stairs Amy fell down were those leading down from the long gallery, although the report says the stairs she fell down adjoined "a certain chamber", possibly Amy's private room from which the only other stairs in the house led down. Skidmore even confidently implies that a quadrangular staircase with a landing is the same thing as a "circular newel staircase".
Verney's murder motive, unsolicited boosting of his master's career, is not at all convincing. At one point Skidmore drops the remark that Cecil would not have risked his position by murdering Amy. Sure! But neither would have Dudley! He would not have risked the axe for murder after having narrowly escaped it for treason (he had also lost 55% of his immediate family between 1553 and 1557 alone; so his ambition was probably balanced by his desire to live). It was natural that all suspicion would fall on Dudley (the more if the crime occurred in his wife's lodgings!), as people were immersed in slanderous gossip regarding him and the Queen. That was a thing his servants, as his enemies in high places, were well aware of.
The "evidence" for Dudley's interference with the jury is that the jury's foreman Sir Richard Smith, formerly "the Queen's man" and later mayor of Abingdon (the town next to the village where Amy died), received some stuffs to make clothes of from Robert Dudley in 1566 -- six years after the event. Skidmore does not bother to explain why the "Mr. Smith, the Queen's man" of 1566 should be the same Smith as the foreman. It's the same with John Stevenson, another jury member; Skidmore thinks he was the same man as John Steaphinson Ferrar, a servant listed near grooms of the stable on a 1559/1560 wages list of Dudley's. The author also tries to implicate Dudley via some payments he made at the end of 1560. Alas, there was nothing ominous about these: Anthony Forster (in whose house Amy had lived and died) was receiving funds to wind up her household; Francis Barthewe, whom Skidmore sees as a mysterious "stranger", was a Flemish merchant to whom Dudley had owed money for some five years (comp. p. 40 of the Accounts); Anthony Butler MP was repaid a "bond" -- a normal procedure. Why should this not happen two and a half months after Amy's death?
The 15 jury members' verdict on oath was accident, "as they are able to agree at present". Skidmore makes a lot out of this disclaimer. Yet, by its very frankness the formulation does not smack of intervention by evil forces.