A nun and a monk defy death and dishonor at her family's Welsh fortress in Priscilla Royal's second 'country house mystery' set in 13th century England.
A nun and a monk defy death and dishonor at her family's Welsh fortress...
In the winter of 1271, Death stalks the corridors of Wynethorpe Castle on the Welsh border. When the Grim Reaper touches the beloved grandson of the castle lord, Baron Adam sends for his daughter, Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal, and her sub-infirmarian, Sister Anne, to save the child with prayers and healing talents. Escorting them to the remote fortress is Brother Thomas, an unwilling monk fighting his private demons.
Death may be denied once in his quest for souls but never twice. Soon after the trio arrives, an important guest is murdered. The prioress's brother, bloody dagger in hand, stands over the corpse. All others may believe in his guilt, but Eleanor is convinced her brother is innocent.
Outside her priory, in a world of armed men, Eleanor may have little authority, but she is determined to untangle the Gordian knot of thwarted passions and old resentments even if it means defying her father, a man with whom she longs to make peace. As passions rise with the winter wind and time runs short, Eleanor, Anne and Thomas struggle to find the real killer.
Brother Thomas shattered the film of ice in the basin with the edge of his hand, then gingerly splashed the freezing water into his eyes, rubbing them clean of the gritty residue of his sleepless night. Father Anselm, the resident priest of Wynethorpe Castle, whose room he had been invited to share, must have already left to perform Mass, he thought, running his wet hands down his cheeks to soften the thick auburn stubble. He winced with the stinging cold. Although he had always been a fastidious man, today he hated the idea of scraping his flesh clean of beard. The morning had such a piercing chill.
"I am growing soft," the young monk muttered as he reached for a curved razor. Despite his loathing for the desolation of Tyndal, a priory on the North Sea coast where he had lived since last summer, he had never lacked for warm water there when it came time for his weekly shave. Faced with these more spartan conditions, he realized he had grown quite used to those ...
This is Priscilla Royal's second murder mystery set in the 13th century - and it's a true delight. Royal continues with the characters she introduced in 'Wine of Violence' (2003) - the gutsy young prioress of Tyndal Abbey, Eleanor, and her companions, Sister Anne, a nun skilled in medicine, and Brother Thomas, an unwilling monk and and unseemingly handsome (for a monk) man with a complex past - more about which we'll undoubtedly learn in later volumes. The first installment was set in Tyndal, but in Tyrant of the Mind, Eleanor, Sister Anne and Brother Thomas have traveled to Eleanor's family seat on the borders of Wales where her nephew is very sick. Before long the bodies start falling, almost as thick and fast as the snow on the ground (which prevents anyone calling for the local sheriff - thus setting the scene for a classic country house murder mystery, albeit set in a very drafty 13th century castle).
The joy of Royal's books is the way in which she brings the 13th century to life, illustrating the hardships and pleasures of life for real people of the period.
Royal's Author's Note at the end of the book is also well worth reading for the background information she provides on the period. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that some of her references might give away elements of the plot I'd recommend you read it first.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (275 words).
Priscilla Royal grew up in British Columbia and has a
degree in world literature from San Francisco State University, where
she discovered the beauty of medieval literature. Until recently, she
worked for the Federal government in a variety of positions. She is a theater fan as well as reader of
history, mysteries, and fiction of lesser violence. She now lives in
Northern California and belongs to the California Writers Club and
Sisters in Crime.
When she published her first book, Wine of Violence in late 2003, Priscilla Royal gave credit to the team at her publishers, Poisoned Pen Press, 'for making my 50-year-old dream ...
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