Sister Hildegard has a momentous decision to make as soon as she solves some murders.
Newly returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela after the death of her lover, the spy Rivera (A Parliament of Spies, 2012), Hildegard is wondering whether she should remain a nun. While she ponders her decision, her prioress sends her to Handale Priory, a remote Benedictine outpost in the north of England, where rumor has it that a dragon has taken up residence in the nearby woods. Upon her arrival, she finds an atmosphere filled with suspicion, a number of badly treated penitents suffering for their sins, and a dead man, one of the masons working on a new addition for the prioress, said to be killed by the dragon. Prioress Basilda lives in luxury along with a few special cronies while the rest of the community suffers deprivations. Hildegard, tasked with keeping up the paperwork, has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and an underhanded scheme concocted by Master Fulke, a benefactor of the priory. The remaining masons are willing to help Hildegard, who soon has the fatal poisoning of the priory’s young priest to add to her list. Along the way, she discovers that Fulke is hiding illegal goods on the priory grounds, feathers destined for the arrows of King Richard II’s enemies, who include many powerful earls. Fulke is also selling women, one of them an orphaned heiress destined to be a pawn in a powerful game. Even after finding the answers to some of her problems in manuscripts in the scriptorium, Hildegard realizes she’s playing a dangerous game against powerful enemies.
A dramatic mystery lavishly studded with period details: Clark’s best to date.