A naïve investigator in medieval England faces a wall of duplicitous suspects in probing a disturbing murder.
In 1324, during the reign of feckless Edward II, elderly priest Roger Lacy, who’s known better days, is reduced to begging in Bottesford and sleeping under a hedge. He’s taking a moment to pray in Saint Mary’s Church when a hooded figure murders him and places his corpse on the altar in a clear act of blasphemy. The impressionable pope has fallen under the thrall of inquisitor general Bernard de Gui, who sees witches and demons around every corner and might well use the killing as an excuse for a large-scale inquisition. So the Bishop of Lincoln dispatches his young protégé Thomas Lester to monitor the situation, perhaps solve the crime, and, the bishop mischievously suggests, find a wife. As it happens, Thomas soon strikes romantic sparks with Cecily, a titled Bottesford lass. Most everyone else he meets, however, is both suspicious and standoffish. Pretentious, influential Friar Justus admires de Gui. Cecily’s reclusive stepmother, Isabella, met with the murdered man shortly before his death. Chaplain Father Elyas casts suspicion on miller Tom Attwood, who reacts violently to the accusation. The drunken Attwood becomes the second victim of the mysterious hooded figure, who stages his death to look like a suicide. After hearing the protestations of the miller’s wife, Thomas is skeptical of this version of events. An unsettling encounter in the woods with Cecily’s saucy maid, Alice, reintroduces the specter of sorcery and reminds Thomas of his own unworldliness. He realizes that he must attend to his own safety as he attempts to discover the truth.
Rooted in the tumultuous history of its unique era, Gaddes’ debut novel offers genuine tension and consistent surprises.