In November 1382, the month of the dead, Abbess Hildegard rides out for York from the Abbey of Meaux. This is no ordinary journey—it is a time of rival popes, a boy king, and a shaky peace in the savage aftermath of Wat Tyler’s murder—and Hildegard has embarked on a perilous mission to try to secure the future of her priory.Traveling alone, she discovers danger, encountering first a gibbet with five bloodied corpses and then the body of a youth, brutally butchered. Who was the boy, how was he connected to the men hanging from the gibbet, and what do these gruesome deaths mean? Hildegard is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how terrible it may be. When even her childhood home, Castle Hutton, turns out not to be a safe haven from murder, Hildegard realizes she will have to summon all of her courage and wisdom to counter the dark forces that threaten her friends and family as well as her country.
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Medievalists rejoice! British author Clark's debut, the first in a projected series, offers careful plotting, well-drawn characters and smart dialogue. In November 1382, Sister Hildegard, a Cistercian nun, is hoping to find in the East Riding of Yorkshire a place where she and several other sisters can establish an abbey to minister to the sick and the poor. Hildegard seeks help from the local magnate, Lord Roger de Hutton, in securing a suitable property, but after someone tries to poison Lord Roger, she winds up turning sleuth. Both members of his household and political rivals have motives for wishing Lord Roger dead. Hildegard's status as a nun allows her plenty of room to move through the different strata of society. Readers should be prepared for some slow pacing at the start, part of the scene setting that prepares for later plot developments. Clark may well do for Yorkshire in the age of Chaucer what Michael Jecks has done for Devonshire in his Knights Templar series set half a century earlier. (Feb.)
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