When William Wykeham, the bishop of Winchester, arrives in York convinced that someone has designs on his life, Archbishop Thoresby places the former Lord Chancellor under the protective wing of Thoresby’s trusted steward and guard, the one-eyed Captain Owen Archer (A Spy for the Redeemer, p. 146, etc.). Just because Wykeham is paranoid doesn’t mean he has no enemies. He’s incurred the animosity of the powerful Pagnell family by failing in his ransom negotiations to win the release of Sir Ranulf Pagnell from a French jail. Now that Sir Ranulf has died in his cell, his remains are to be buried in York in a month, with Wykeham studiously omitted from the guest list for the last rites. While Archer’s at home with his apothecary wife Lucie Wilton, their adopted son Jasper brings news of a fire at Wykeham’s house. Beneath the burned-out ruins, in the lower level where records are stored, Owen finds the strangled body of Cisetta, the young midwife who attended Lucie when she recently lost a child at birth. Determined to find Cisetta’s killer, Owen turns up in the course of his efforts another dimension to the enmity between Wykeham and the Pagnells that points to the treachery of trusted underlings—and provides a cogent reason for Wykeham’s diplomatic failure.
Robb’s usual lively, endearingly detailed evocation of late–14th-century England, along with a convincing plot and a believable cast of characters, make this one of the veteran webspinner’s better outings.