Chains of Folly

Written by Roberta Gellis
Review by Lucille Cormier

Chains of Folly is the 4th Magdalene la Batarde mystery. Set in 1139 CE, the story plays out against the backdrop of civil war between Stephen and Matilda. A murdered whore is found in the Bishop of Winchester’s bedchamber. The whore carries a letter tying Winchester to Stephen’s enemy, Robert of Gloucester. Is Henry of Winchester a traitor to his king as well as a traitor to his own brother, King Stephen?

The stakes are high as Henry orders his knight, Sir Bellamy of Itchen, to find who killed the prostitute and who placed her in his bedchamber. Sir Bellamy, “Bell,” is also instructed to seek assistance from Magdalene, his estranged lover, who is also mistress of the Old Priory Guesthouse, a genteel and cheerful house of ill repute. Political skullduggery, prostitution, opium selling, a brother’s love, thwarted greed, and social climbing create the thorny maze through which they navigate to clear Winchester’s name.

This is a wonderful medieval mystery. The rich historical information slides in so naturally the reader isn’t aware of having learned it. The action is great; the characters are true. There is romance and gentle humor – all the ingredients for an enjoyable and profitable weekend of reading.