By Cassandra Clark
Minotaur Books, 2009
In November 1382, the month of the dead, Abbess Hildegard rides out for York from the Abbey of Meaux. This is no ordinary journey—it is a time of rival popes, a boy king, and a shaky peace in the savage aftermath of Wat Tyler’s murder—and Hildegard has embarked on a perilous mission to try to secure the future of her priory.
Traveling alone, she discovers danger, encountering first a gibbet with five bloodied corpses and then the body of a youth, brutally butchered. Who was the boy, how was he connected to the men hanging from the gibbet, and what do these gruesome deaths mean? Hildegard is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how terrible it may be. When even her childhood home, Castle Hutton, turns out not to be a safe haven from murder, Hildegard realizes she will have to summon all of her courage and wisdom to counter the dark forces that threaten her friends and family as well as her country.
Review from Kirkus Reviews: A medieval nun seeks justice for the poor and noble alike. As Sister Hildegard strikes out across rain-sodden Yorkshire in November of 1382, she searches for some small abbey where she and a few other women can tend the poor and she may grieve her lost husband. Instead, she finds six dead men in the woods—five hanged outlaws and one wayward youth. Lord Roger de Hutton might have tracked down the killers, but he’s poisoned in his own feasting hall and saved only by Hildegard’s herbs. To flush out the would-be murderer, Hildegard and Roger’s Saxon steward Ulf help the lord play dead while they investigate both the stirrings of rebellion among the villeins and craftsmen and the intrigue among the lord’s possible heirs. They’re accompanied by Burthred, an observant young serf with a way with animals, and aided by the suspiciously charismatic Abbot of Meaux. While a few elements of the mystery are obvious, its complexities will resist most readers until the end. Deeply embedded in the historical events of the period, this is a rich tapestry; even the small figures are finely detailed and carefully situated in a dazzling array of events. An intriguing and evocative debut.