Sunday, March 8, 2015

Satan's Lullaby by Priscilla Royal

"The north wind bit with the sharpness of an angry dog's teeth. The afternoon sun, weary of its summer reign, had grown pale. Although winter would soon besiege this East Anglican coast with glittering ice and deceptively soft snow, all knew that the Prince of Darkness could chill hearts in ways deadlier than a bitter hoarfrost." Opening Paragraph


Synopsis:  It is the autumn of 1278. The harvest is in. Te air is crisp. Dusty summer breathes a last sigh before the dark seasons arrive. For Prioress Eleanor, dark times arrive early in Norfolk. The head of her order, Abbess Isabeau, has sent Father Etienne Davoir from its headquarters in France to inspect all aspects of Tyndal Priory from its morals to its roofs. Surely the Abbess would not have chosen her own brother for this rare and thorough investigation unless the cause was serious and she had reason to fear intervention from Rome. Prioress Eleanor knows something is terribly amiss. The situation turns calamitous when Davoir’s sick clerk dies from a potion sent by Sister Anne, Tyndale’s sub-infirmarian. Is Sister Anne guilty of simple incompetence—or murder? Or, Davoir asks, did Prioress Eleanor order the death to frighten him away before he discovered the truth behind accusations she is unfit for her position? When Davoir himself is threatened, the priest roars for justice. Even expectant father Crowner Ralf, the local representative of the king’s justice, has lost all objectivity. The most likely suspects are Anne, the woman Ralf once loved, the prioress he respects, and the Tyndal monk, Thomas, who is his closest friend. Who among the French and English assembled at Tyndal has succumbed to Satan's lullaby?

Review by Mirella Patzer

I have never read a medieval mystery by Priscilla Royal before. This particular novel is the 11th in a series about Priorewss Eleanor and Brother Thomas and others in the cast. Although this is a series, I do not think you need to read them in any particular order. The author did a pretty good job of sprinkling in small tidbits of past history should it be necessary to the plot.

The story's setting is Tyndal Priory in Norfolk during the 13th century. The priory is a joint male/female religious house, with Eleanor at its helm.

The basic plot is about Father Etienne Davoir, who is the brother of an Abbess in France who is in charge of the priory. He is there to oversee the priory to ensure the finances and its running is in accordance with the abbess's dictates. When he uncovers a rumor about some improprieties between two members, and he discovers a clerk murdered, the story really takes off.

The story has several shady, but fascinating characters, lots of twists, and an interesting plot. The author is knowledgeable and comfortable in this particular medieval period, so the book is informative as well as entertaining. This book was an excellent read and I will definitely follow up by reading some of the earlier books in the series.


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