The Red Velvet Turnshoe

Written by Cassandra Clark
Review by Carol McGrath

In February of the year 1383 a rain started to fall before Martinmas. It swept through France, Flanders, and Tuscany causing floods and famine. Europe is dangerous. There is plague and the Hundred Years War is causing political turmoil. Hildegard, the nun heroine of Hangman Blind, is sent on a dangerous mission to bring the Cross of Constantine from Italy to York. A disappearance, a murder, and a grisly discovery in Bruges set in action a terrifying course of events for Hildegard. She leaves Bruges accompanied by the young, arrogant musician Pierrekyn, murder suspect, and Talbot, her knight protector. They arrive at the monastery on St. Bernard’s Pass during a snowstorm, and by now the novel’s events are spiraling. For the next two-thirds of this story, the reader is gripped by suspense, the revelation of characters noble and bad, and a deep political secret that endangers King Richard’s crown. Many want Hildegard’s mission to fail, and one character plans a deadly revenge.

The story is ingenious, the plotting is suspenseful, the characters are portrayed with depth and subtlety, the writing is atmospheric. Cassandra Clark’s novel is literary, detailed, and thoroughly researched, making it a delicious read for any lover of historical writers such as C. J. Sansom or Philippa Gregory, with the added advantage of an original, brilliantly portrayed and unforgettable heroine.