In the year 1382, England emerges from violent religious rebellion into precarious peace. It is during this time that Hildegard, recently widowed and financially wealthy, becomes a Cistercian nun at the Abbey of Meaux. Her grief is deep and her husband’s death a mystery. Here she discovers her life’s purpose: to set up a priory to help care for the sick, poor and homeless. Even though the countryside is unsafe, she undertakes an uncertain journey to Castle Hutton in York to ask the Abbot of Meaux for assistance. On the way she stumbles upon the gruesome sight of five hanging eviscerated corpses. Later, she discovers a slaughtered young boy and can’t help but wonder if the two incidents are connected.
After arriving at Castle Hutton, Hildegard reports her findings to Lord Roger. Murder follows her inside when, during a celebration feast, Lord Roger tumbles over into his plate of food. Assumed poisoned, his apparent death sets up a game of deception and intrigue to catch a killer. Hildegard, the key investigator, faces deceit, evil, lust, greed, and her own divergent feelings.
A debut author with raw nerve, Cassandra Clark places Hildegard, an independent woman of means, into an unheard-of role during this age. This courageous nun is an anachronism I can only describe as CSI meets the 14th century. This first book in Clark’s series will delight historical crime fans who enjoy constant plot twists.