The Serpent’s Tale
Adelia Aguilar is still in England after her detecting adventures as chronicled in Mistress of the Art of Death. King Henry II has refused to give his permission for her to leave the island, expecting that he may need to call upon her unique forensic skills once again. She is living a quiet life in the fens with her baby daughter when she is indeed summoned to look into the poisoning of Rosamund Clifford, King Henry’s mistress. The king, and most particularly Rowley Picot, the bishop of St. Albans, fear that Queen Eleanor will be blamed, and that this might set off more civil war. The country, wracked by that between Stephen and Maude, is loath to experience it again.
Rosamund lives in a tower surrounded by a maze, and when Adelia and her companions arrive, they find Eleanor’s entourage close behind. Adelia’s group is taken hostage and transported, in a harrowing winter journey, to the nunnery of Godstow, where everyone is trapped by a fierce snowstorm. In the meantime, other murders or attempted murders are occurring: several people connected to Rosamund’s poisoning, and a lone traveler whose body is found near the nunnery.
The Serpent’s Tale completely engaged this reader, just as its predecessor did. The politics of the time are brought vividly to life, as are the very limited powers a woman had over her own destiny. The murders and mysteries twine and intertwine, but are all cleverly and neatly resolved. The author’s note explains what was, what wasn’t, and what might have been.
Early Medieval (to 1337)
The Death Maze