Sister Hildegard again defends the innocent amid political intrigue in medieval Yorkshire (The Red Velvet Turnshoe, 2009, etc.).
Hildegard has had a year of peaceful labor, living her long-cherished dream of founding a cell of nuns. The sisters tend their beehives and flocks and happily offer the same care to two wayward girls: Petronilla, a pretty, chatty teenager, and the silent peasant child Maud. Their calm is shattered when armed men destroy the grange—the same men who ravaged Maud’s family and farm. Under John of Gaunt’s cruel rule, a knight may pillage a manor to claim it, but why ride for miles to track down a serfling? To protect Maud, Hildegard takes the girls to the great town of York to bring charges against the predators. The city is abuzz with the summer heat, the grim anniversary of the hanging of rebel Wat Tyler and the upcoming festival of Corpus Christi. Hildegard’s abbess sends her the Cross of Constantine, the relic Hildegard recovered the year before, and bids her take it to the archbishop. When Hildegard obeys, the cross is stolen. Then Hildegard witnesses an inexplicable explosion in a crowded market stall. Was it set by rebels or by rulers seeking to frame them? Hildegard must find justice for Maud, recover the powerful holy relic and untangle the machinations of the rebels and their enemies, all before the great feast day crowds the city to its breaking point.
Intricately plotted and rich in vivid historical detail, the three interlocking mysteries create an engrossing, fascinating tale.