Once again, 15th-century Canterbury, where no one seems to have died a natural death, is the background for the latest investigation by apothecary-physician Kathryn Swinbrooke (The Book of Shadows, 1996, etc.). Edward of York has emerged as King of England. Although his battles with the forces of Lancaster are over, there are still anxieties over the machinations of King Louis of France and his legion of spies. The late Father Roger Atwood, at the town’s Friary of the Sack, was confessor to Dame Cecily, the mother Edward has always kept close by his side. Now that there have been rumors of miracles and visions at Father Atwood’s gravesite, the Duchess wants him beatified. Kathryn has been assigned to stay at the Friary, oversee the exhumation, and decide whether there are any obstacles to his sainthood. Soon after a mysterious scent of perfume fills the air, Gervase, the assistant prior, dies a violent death by fire. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s longtime lover Colum Murtagh, keeper of the King’s Horses, is mystified by the death of his old friend Padraig. In the end it looks as if the confirmation of a family member’s secret life will clear the way for Kathryn’s marriage to Colum.
Much the long-winded, repetitive mixture as before, with a jumble of plots, major and minor, interspersed by endless details of dress and decor. A bonanza to fans of the period; a sore test of patience for others.