Those who meddle in the affairs of kings, especially in 12th-century London, are apt to end up dead.
The Bishop of Winchester, displeased when a murdered whore is found sitting in his chair, bids Sir Bellamy of Itchen (A Personal Devil, 2001, etc.) discover who placed her there. The search is made more urgent by the letter she had hidden that might have been dangerous for the Bishop had his brother the King read it. Bell goes to Magdalene la Bâtarde, a beautiful and superior whore with whom he had a falling out when she admitted that her patron, William of Ypres, had a place in her heart and sometimes her bed. Magdalene keeps a few select women in the Old Priory Guesthouse, where her landlord is the Bishop. Investigation reveals that Nelda, the dead whore, was also a thief and extortionist. Among the suspects are several acquaintances whose trinkets were found hidden in her wall. The plot thickens when one of them is found poisoned in her room. Magdalene and Bell must cut through the thicket of possible motives—blackmail, revenge, political advantage—to discover the murderer and mend their own relationship.
The extensive roll call of historical and fictional characters is occasionally bewildering, but marvelous Magdalene and stout-hearted Bell make the effort to keep them straight well worthwhile.