A penance designated for Hildegard of Meaux Abbey brings her into great danger.
England in 1389 is no safe place for anyone, as the great lords fight among themselves over the power rightly belonging to the young Richard II. But it’s even less safe for Hildegard when Abbot Hubert de Courcy, disturbed by her sexual escapade with Sir Ulf of Langbar (Murder at Meaux, 2018, etc.), commands her to go soon after Christmas to Whitby Abbey to try to obtain a holy relic for Meaux. Accompanying her are Brother Luke, a young and innocent monk, and her old friends, the fighting monks Gregory and Egbert. The massive Whitby is home to the dour Benedictines, who are willing to assuage their poverty by selling a lock of hair from Abbess Hild of Whitby. Upon her arrival, Hildegard finds herself in a bidding war with both wealthy religious houses and wealthy lords. Abbot Richmond himself is noncommittal; the place seems to be run by his bursar, Peter Hertilpole, a supercilious type locked in a battle with the poor fisherfolk of the town over payments to the abbey they can’t afford. Hildegard suspects that the relic is actually horsehair, but, loathe to return empty-handed, she and her friends wait for the bidding to proceed. When Brother Aelwyn is found dead in the apple storeroom, Hildegard is first puzzled, then alarmed by the realization that he was murdered even though the monks have chosen to ignore the crime. Another death that follows is also claimed to be accidental, but Hildegard and her friends, acutely aware of the dangerous currents swirling among the monks and the townsfolk, continue to hunt for answers and justice for the dead.
One of the heroine’s most perilous and exciting adventures features misogyny in every ugly form.