Dominican monk Brother Athelstan and his companion in crime solving, Sir John Cranston, Lord High Coroner of London, take on a locked-room murder.
Sir John drags Athelstan away from his parish when wealthy merchant Sir Robert Kilverby is found dead in his windowless, locked chancery study. Even worse, the fabulous Bloodstone, which Kilverby holds for the Crown, is missing. Although the sleuths soon realize that Kilverby was poisoned, their real challenge is in determining how. The Bloodstone was one of a number of religious artifacts that a group of English archers known as the Wyvern Company claimed to have found on a cart in France, though many suspect that they had in fact looted them from the Abbey of St. Calliste. Since the remaining Wyverns are living and dying at the Abbey of St. Fulcher, that’s where Athelstan and Sir John begin their investigation. They’re greeted with the news that one of the Wyverns has been murdered. Sub-Prior Richer is from France, and Athelstan suspects him of secretly working to return the loot to St. Castille. Abbott Walter seems far more interested in his pet swan and his supposed sister and niece than in murder and theft. Prior Alexander favors Richer more than is seemly. All of them are hiding secrets. More deaths among the Wyvern Company and attempts on Athelstan’s life follow as he comes closer to uncovering the truth.
The 11th in this series (The House of Shadows, 2003, etc.) brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of 1380. The mystery presents an intriguing puzzle but moves ponderously to its solution.