Hour of the Fox (A Brother Chandler Mystery)

Written by Cassandra Clark
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

This medieval mystery is the first in the Brother Chandler series by the author who also wrote the Abbess Hildegard of Meaux books. The year is 1399, the setting mostly London. King Richard II is on the throne, but his cousin Henry Bolingbroke is trying to depose him and take the crown for himself. Politics are complicated and dangerous, with cruelty and violence characterizing the times.

Brother Rodric Chandler, half-Castilian and half-Plantagenet, is a Friar of the Order of Mercedarians. When a young novice nun from the royal abbey is found murdered, he and coroner/alchemist Sir Arnold Archer investigate. The story is also related by a young servant girl, Mattie. Chandler’s third-person and Mattie’s first-person alternating points of view from chapter to chapter are distracting but come together to make sense later in the book. This 256-page book has 109 chapters, and I found the choppiness irritating.

The thin mystery seems tacked on to what is really a character study of Chandler and a richly textured history of the times. The story includes Geoffrey Chaucer as a fairly minor but interesting character. The story of Richard II ends very abruptly in a cliffhanger that will leave readers dangling until the next book comes out. Fans who don’t want to wait that long can check Wikipedia for the ultimate fates of Richard and Bolingbroke.

Rodric Chandler has been set up as an intriguing character with depth and complexity. Readers of dark medieval mysteries will most likely enjoy this one and look forward to following Rodric to the next.