The Joys of my Life
This is the latest and last of the Hawkenlye mysteries, based at the fictitious Hawkenlye Abbey in the Weald of Kent. It begins with a death at the siege of a French castle, and then moves to the Ile d’Oléron where the main characters of the series, the kind-hearted bonehead Sir Josse d’Acquin and the headmistressy Abbess Helewise, have been summoned by the dowager Queen Eleanor to receive orders for a new chapel at Hawkenlye. Queen Eleanor charges Sir Josse to investigate rumours that the late King Richard had participated in the murderous rites of an evil cult of knights on the island. Another building is also in progress: the cathedral of Chartres. Not only is the Church involved, but also the wicked cultists, and a third group: the forest pagans who moved into the Hawkenlye series several volumes ago like a particularly aggressive band of squatters. There is enough of Sir Josse and Helewise, and of other appealing characters, to make this an engaging read, but there is far too much of the annoying pagans. Severn House has contracted Alys Clare to start an unrelated new mediaeval series. If it has the charm of the early Hawkenlye books, I shall look forward to it.