Prioress Eleanor investigates murder within her own priory walls in the latest installment of this long-running series (Chambers of Death, 2009, etc.).
Eleanor, prioress of Tyndal, is ambivalent about the queen’s impending visit. The honor of Her Majesty’s presence might well prove costly. Her fears are not allayed by the royal advance party: greedy Baron Otes, creepy Father Eliduc and ailing Lady Avelina, along with her unrelentingly cruel son Simon and her faithful serving man Kenard. The party is headed by Sir Fulke, elder brother of the local crowner Ralf. Baron Otes is found with his throat slit, but instead of closing ranks to investigate, the two brothers bicker constantly, to the detriment of their legal duties. The only witness is a terrified orphan boy. Brother Thomas, Eleanor’s usual partner in crime-stopping, is doing penance for his lust as a hermit. So Eleanor is left to seek out the murderer alone, as she also prepares for the queen’s visit. During the dress rehearsal of a liturgical play for royal entertainment, Kenard drops dead outside the chapel door. Is there one killer on the loose, or two?Longtime fans of the series might appreciate the backstory, but newcomers will find it confusing. The wordy narration, wooden dialogue, one-dimensional characters and implausibly neat solution make for a tedious read.