Poisoned Pen Press / Medieval Mystery
The irrepressible Prioress Eleanor steps outside her contemplative life at Tyndal Priory to solve a mystery, several in fact. When the arrogant Father Etienne Davoir is sent by his sister, Abbess Isabeau, to audit the Tyndal Priory books and inspect the facility with his pious assistants, their furtive supports Eleanor’s suspicion that all is not as it seems. When, as expected, Fr Davoir finds everything in good order at the priory, he unleashes the truth. Eleanor has been accused of an “unchaste relationship” with Brother Thomas, one of her dear friends and advisors. Ramping up the tension, one of Davoir’s assistants is killed and Sister Anne, the medicinal sister who cares for the others who live at the abbey, is accused of a revenge murder. Prioress Eleanor, a possible accomplice in the death of the assistant, is prevented from investigating the death and interviewing Sr. Anne, so she seeks assistance from Ralf, the local coroner.
While the story idea is a good one and the plot developed, the characters lack substance. The only one I could see was Gracia, who is also the only with sociological characteristics that rang true. Oddly, more detail was revealed about Ralf and his pregnant wife (a distant character in the story) which did not add to the book. While the character gaps do not spoil the plot and subplots, more character depth would have enriched the reading experience.
Royal takes a risk in using more dialogue than narrative, unusual in historical novels. Her dialogue does move the story forward; although, it lags at times. Additional narrative on the history of the Priory, Abbess Isabeau, Fr. Davoir, and Sr. Eleanor would have strengthened reader involvement. Obviously, Royal has a loyal following, since this is her eleventh medieval mystery, but my overall enjoyment of the book would have been embellished with heightened character development and links to previous information from other books in the series.
Review provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Book Reviews in the August 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.