When one of her company falls ill on a return journey to Tyndal, Prioress Eleanor accepts lodging at a nearby manor. Master Stevyns' wife is having an affair with the groom while a local widow acts more the lady of the manor than the lady herself. His eldest son and spouse are obsessed with sin and heaven while his youngest son, bound for the Church, unexpectedly returns with more interest in lute playing than the priesthood. It is no surprise when someone's throat is cut, but the sheriff does all he can to avoid offending the family rather than seeking the real killer. When he arrests a servant, she herself is stabbed before she can either prove innocence or be taken off for hanging. Will Eleanor discover the dark secrets that have led to this string of killings before the murderer strikes again?
At the outset of Royal's absorbing sixth medieval mystery to feature Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal (after 2008's Forsaken Soul), Eleanor and a group returning from a journey through Norfolk take shelter from a bitter autumn rainstorm in a manor house near Tyndal after one of their party, a young nun, falls gravely ill. Eleanor and her companions receive a warm welcome, but they soon realize all is not well at the manor, whose residents include the earl of Lincoln's steward, the steward's family and staff. When a groom is brutally butchered in the stable and the cook accused of his murder, Eleanor and her faithful friend, Brother Thomas, can't help investigating what they soon see is a convenient rush to judgment by the local sheriff. As the death toll mounts, they discover any number of suspects among the manor's household. Once again, Royal combines a well-executed plot with authentic period detail. (Aug.)
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Poisoned Pen Press
July 31, 2009
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