Murder in the Cloister (A Christine de Pizan Mystery 4)

Written by Tania Bayard
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

This is Book Four of the Christine de Pizan mysteries. In late March 1399, Christine, a scribe for King Charles VI in Paris, is sent to the priory of Poissy, some 15 miles west. A young nun has been murdered. Under the pretext of helping with priory manuscripts, Christine is charged with uncovering the murderer and the motive.

Twisting, complex plot lines hint at sorcery, the supernatural, mental illness, cruelty, and greed. In contrast is the beautiful chanting of the Divine Office—the nuns’ main reason for maintaining the richly appointed priory. Endless rain throughout the story leads to drama later in the book. The intricate plot ends in a simple resolution that by no means answers all the questions raised by the murder. I hope that Book Five is in the pipeline.

Constant feminist remarks are jarring and may seem anachronistic, but Christine was a real historical figure who is considered the first professional woman writer. In real life, she was outspoken in her defense of women. The epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter—many from Christine’s writings—are fascinating and help set the medieval tone.

This story gleams in a rich pageant of late medieval French life. Fans of religious historical mysteries should enjoy this.