Devon, 1321. Lady Elizabeth of Topsham is the prioress of Belstone Abbey but stands accused by the treasurer, Sister Margherita of stealing vital funds for the upkeep of Belstone while also “entertaining” the new vicar in her chambers at night. What a naughty nun… but she’s not the only one, by any means.
One night in the sickbay, three nuns lie sleeping, blissfully unaware of anything due to the healing sleeping draught that has been administered. And someone sneaks into the chamber and smothers Moll – a nun who has a habit of discovering peoples secret sins and confronting them…
As Margherita’s support begins to grow, the Bishop of Exeter’s representative arrives – and it appears that he is already on her side. But luckily, he is accompanied by Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock. But when Baldwin is taken out of the picture, can Simon find the killer before they strike again? Hint: No!
There’s a great story from Michael on the Goodreads page for this book. Apparently he got a load of complaints from readers concerning the behaviour of the nuns – virtually every member of the convent is indulging in some less-than-godly behaviour. Of course, the book was meticulously researched, and every event described (possibly apart from the murder bit) was recorded by chroniclers at a pair of convents in Devon at the time. I can see why people might think that the events might have been exaggerated, as it all ties together to make a tale full of twists and turns.
I mentioned in my last review that sometimes it’s hard when you have a pair of sleuths to balance things between them. While Michael Jecks is good at giving both Baldwin and Simon equal page time, it’s often stated, not least by Simon himself, that Baldwin is the brains of the operation. It’s not exactly the case, but bringing Simon to the forefront of the investigation is a good move to shake up the series. It’s also an interesting choice that while Simon is competent enough, he doesn’t suddenly produce hidden depths of deductive prowess and things almost end very badly indeed. And while Simon gets some attention, there’s also some development for Simon’s servant, Hugh.
Needless to say, it’s another cracking mystery from Michael Jecks – I was fairly sure who the killer was from about halfway through but needless to say, there was at least one development that took me completely by surprise. And there’s a section towards the end of the book that is completely heartbreaking…
So, no surprises here, this is another book from Michael Jecks that is Highly Recommended.