Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chambers of Death-Priscilla Royal

Chambers of Death
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781590586402

On her way back to Tyndal Priory, Prioress Eleanor, Brother Tomas and potential postulant Mariota are caught in a dangerous storm so need shelter especially with Mariota being very ill. They are fortunate that Master Stevyn, the steward overseeing the estates of Lord Henry de Lacy, offers them a place to stay as much longer in the torrential rain could have sent Mariota to her maker.

From the moment they enter the manor house, the guests sense dark indiscretions and secrets abound amidst their host family. Mistress Constance remains celibate though married to Stevyn’s heir, Master Renulf, who has a rather poor opinion about women. The steward’s wife Mistress Luce is cuckolding him with Tobye the Groom. The second son defies his father when he chooses not to become a priest as expected by his family and society; instead he just stalks around the manor When Tobye is murdered, the sheriff does not want to investigate the family for fear of retribution so instead arrests the cook to shut the case. Eleanor begins an investigation as she believes the cook is innocent especially when a servant is stabbed; however even the Prioress is unaware how dangerous her inquiry will prove, but she will find out rather quickly the hard way.

The series (see FORSAKEN SOUL) takes place during the early years of the reign of Edward I; a time when people firmly believed that imps and Satan walked the earth influencing evil behavior. That sense of life along with a deep look at the cultures of the Church and aristocracy anchor time and place. Eleanor is a strong person who in spite of her religious beliefs insists that some evil is not Satan spawned. Instead she assumes Tobye’s homicide and several murders that follow are caused by a human predator. Fans of medieval mysteries will appreciate another great whodunit by a Royal master of the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner