Death lurks behind every door in medieval England.
Prioress Eleanor, her sub-infirmarian, Anne, and her adviser, Brother Thomas, have rushed to Woodstock Manor, where Eleanor’s father, Baron Adam of Wynethorpe, lies dying. Also present is the baron’s son, Sir Hugh, a crusader who has never mentally recovered from the hell of the holy war, and Hugh's illegitimate son, Richard, who’s afraid to tell his father that he wants to be a priest rather than a warrior. And the entourage of Queen Eleanor has been staying at Woodstock ever since she was obliged to stop there to give birth to a baby girl and rest until she can join her husband, King Edward I, who’s off hunting. When Eleanor and Anne are asked to view the body of one of the queen’s ladies found hanged, they determine that her death was murder. Eleanor and Thomas, who have solved many crimes (Satan’s Lullaby, 2015, etc.), are compelled to investigate when young Richard confesses to the killing. The other likely suspects, whom Eleanor has befriended, are Chera, an elderly Jewish woman, and her two granddaughters, who have come to beg the queen to help them after Chera’s physician son was accused of coin clipping and killed in a raid on the Oxford Jewish community. Now that all their possessions have been confiscated in the king’s name, Chera wants to return to her relatives in France. Edward, fortified by other sources of money, has turned against the Jews his father invited to England as moneylenders. The dead woman whored for her husband, who sold the gifts given to her by infatuated young men, so there are plenty of other suspects. But the grieving prioress must struggle to clear Richard and Chera even as more people are murdered.
Readers entranced by Royal’s vivid historical descriptions will have an altogether easier time than Eleanor with its elementary mystery.