The second in a series by the pseudonymous Beaufort (—an acclaimed mystery writer—). It’s the 11th century, and back to England comes Sir Geoffrey de Mappestone, done with the Crusades. He’s been gone 20 years, having left when he was 12. If you ask him, though, 20 years isn’t long enough, since hearth and home have never signified more than casual abuse, general neglect, and dismal memories. Only the fact of a dying father could have drawn him away from civilized France, his country of choice. Not that Geoffrey has much feeling for this harsh, intemperate parent who had always paid him so little attention. It’s duty that matters. And in this, he is certainly an atypical Mappestone. None of his five siblings cares a hoot about duty. What they all care about is the vast family estate and how it’s to be sliced up once the old man succumbs. Now, Geoffrey’s siblings (of surpassing nastiness) plus spouses are gathered to await the last breath. But to Geoffrey—a warrior, a scholar, and, most importantly, a sleuth (Murder in the Holy City, 1998)—it’s clear that at least one Mappestone is champing at the bit. Mappestone päre, he’s convinced, is being steadily, skillfully poisoned. Is it the same poison that Geoffrey himself was tricked into imbibing? Accusations, protestations, universal detestation among this cheerless, charmless, wearying brood follow—and long before it all gets straightened out you may find yourself rooting for the poisoner to widen his field. Okay period detail overwhelmed by endless repetition. Who would have thought the old 11th century had so much talk in it?