After a decade of marital and sleuthing partnership in 12th-century France, merchant’s daughter Catherine LeVendeur and her noble husband Edgar find themselves, in midlife, assuming parental responsibilities and salvaging family finances in a world upended by social chaos. They return to Paris from years on the road (A Difficult Saint, 1999, etc.), only to find a body in the library—er, counting-room. The only clue to the dead man’s identity is the white cloak of the monk/warrior Knights of the Temple of Solomon, a group formed to bolster King Louis’s second crusade to the Holy Land, and a knife continually disappearing and reappearing. Has the body been dumped in the LeVendeur house just because it was empty? Or is it linked to rumors of treasure hidden there? Can Catherine’s old nemesis Jehan be fueling gossip about her secretly Jewish father’s apostasy, threatening business and scapegoating the family? And how can the suddenly adult Catherine and Edgar, in their new roles as merchant and wife, set to rights a world in which an upstart miller sets out to become a knight; his son goes to the city and falls in with a mad satanist; and housekeeper Samonie, charged with keeping Catherine’s family secrets, is keeping her own? Medieval mystery meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the dizzying plots mark a generational changing of the guard.
Newman makes it well worth the contemporary effort necessary to probe motives that are obscure because they’re medieval, while never forgetting the more deeply mysterious issues underlying social change.