A medieval prioress with a talent for solving murders suddenly has far too many for comfort.
Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Priory must play reluctant host to seven scheming abbots and their servants. Abbot Ilbert, arriving extremely ill, dies before talented Sister Anne can help him, and although Abbot Tristram seems to recover for a while, he too passes away. After a heavy snowfall prevents them from traveling on to meet with a papal envoy, the remaining abbots, ensconced in the new guest quarters and served the best food the priory can provide, carp and whine as they wait for the roads to reopen. Despite their protestations of holiness, each selfishly hopes to advance his own position in the church hierarchy. Odo, the Abbot of Caldwell, the obese brother of Eleanor’s friend Crowner Ralf, is obsessed with food, while abbots Gifre, Mordredus, Didier, and Ancell mask their concerns and ambitions behind polite facades. Sister Anne redoubles her efforts to discover the cause of Ilbert’s death when Odo becomes ill and Abbott Gifre dies after eating mushroom tart. Going off to question the people at the inn the party stayed at the night before the first illness, Ralf hears of a mysterious servant belonging neither to the inn or the abbots who helped serve them. Both Ralf and Eleanor’s right hand, Brother Thomas, now must search in Tyndal village for the man they believe the snowstorm may have forced to stay there. Though several of the abbots must have been poisoned, the poisons may have been quite different. If any of them are to survive, Eleanor must put her fine mind to work to discover the killer.
Royal’s 13th medieval murder (Land of Shadows, 2016, etc.) takes a page from The Mousetrap, forcing the detective to think outside the box imprisoning her and her suspects.