St. Martin's, Feb 2009, $24.95
In 1382 wealthy widow and now a Cistercian Sister Hildegard returns to her hometown of East Riding, Yorkshire where she plans to set up an abbey to aid the impoverished, sick and injured following last year’s deadly Peasant Revolt. To achieve her objective, she will need the help of her long time friend, local magistrate Lord Roger de Hutton.
However upon arrival at Hutton Castle, she learns her friend has been poisoned. Sister Hildegard investigates only to find Lord Roger made many enemies within his castle household and with Yorkshire rivals seeking to improve their position. However, none seem to go as far as murder although many had the means and opportunity.
Mindful of Margaret Frazer’s Sister Frevisse fifteenth century mysteries, the first Sister Hildegard’s fourteenth century tale is an excellent medieval whodunit that brings to life a fragile England still reeling from the revolt of 1381 and the growing tension of what looks like a civil war in the near future. Following the preliminary introduction to time, place and lead character, the story line shifts into first gear as the nun learns of Roger’s fate and never decelerates as everyone acts suspiciously around the heroine. Readers will appreciate this strong opening act as the history is vivid and the investigation exciting and entertaining.