Medieval monastic melodrama, murder, mayhem.
Despite any number of apparitions and a (real) setting with the tantalizing name of Disibodenberg, Dyrek’s debut is anything but comical. When a knight returning from the First Crusade brings not only the fabled Spear of Longinus, said to be the one that pierced Jesus’ side, but murderous pursuers determined to reclaim the relic for political purposes, the seemingly peaceful German monastery begins to look like a killing field. As the corpses accumulate, two teenage sleuths—bookish monk Volmar and a visionary new anchorite, or hermit, named Hildegard (yes, that one, the one from Bingen)—search for clues to killers and causes, uncover an older crime and struggle to reconcile their own fleshly desire for one another with their spiritual vows and commitments. This last becomes a major theme, resolved at last with laudable (if slightly alien to faithless modern readers) mutual agreement that the soul’s imperatives must ever trump the body’s. The author also strews her tale with generous measures of intrigue, sudden violence, poison, evidence to decipher, secrets waiting to be revealed, specters either holy (in Hildegard’s case) or otherwise and figures and incidents drawn from history.
Despite some anachronisms and loose ends, a sturdy kickoff with a distinctly different duo of detectives. (Historical fantasy. 12-15)