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The Proud Sinner (Medieval Mysteries) Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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A medieval prioress with a talent for solving murders suddenly has far too many for comfort. 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. (Kirkus)
Overall, another excellent story that keep my interest until the early hours of the next day, I rate this novel with five stars. The story moves with a steady pace and delivered for me much reading pleasure. Do give this novel a try if you have not read one of her novels befor (Raymond Moon NetGalley)
At the start of Royal's taut 13th mystery set in 13th-century England (after 2016's Land of Shadows), a party of seven abbots arrives at Tyndal Priory. One of them, Abbot Ilbert, is seriously ill. Despite the ministrations of Sister Anne, a trained healer, Ilbert perishes, as do more than one of his colleagues soon after. Suspicion that food served at the priory might be responsible for the deaths places pressure on Prioress Eleanor to identify the culprit and exonerate her community. Ilbert had a reputation as a sadistic martinet, who once beat a clerk nearly to death for having spilled ink on a piece of parchment, but Eleanor also considers that Ilbert's prospects for advancement within the church may have motivated his killer. Atypically, Royal gives scant attention to developing the historical background, but her clever integration of an Agatha Christie―like plot into her chosen period will still please whodunit fans. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
Priscilla Royal, author of twelve books from Poisoned Pen Press in the Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas medieval mystery series, grew up in British Columbia and earned a BA in World Literature at San Francisco State University where she discovered the beauty of medieval literature. Before retiring from the Federal Government in 2000, she worked in a variety of jobs, all of which provided an excellent education in the complexity of human experience and motivation. She is a theater fan as well as a reader of history, mystery, and fiction of lesser violence. When not hiding in the thirteenth century, she lives in Northern California and is a member of California Writers Club, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am a real fan of this series of mediaeval mysteries and have read the entire series three times. I never tire of them, although I have to admit that on the third reading I was actively looking for something that I was certain was in the hard cover edition I first read. (I didn't find it in my two Kindle re-reads).
This story is set three years after the last book and begins with Prioress Eleanor seeking advice from her friend, the Anchoress Juliana, and Eda, Juliana's serving woman about the future of her own maid, Gracia. Their discussion is interrupted when a message arrives with the news that seven abbots have arrived at the Priory, and that one of them is ill. Eleanor hastens to greet them, only to be confronted by an abbot who is not only concerned about how well he will be fed, but also is very aware of his own superiority as a man and an abbot, compared with Eleanor who is a daughter of Eve and vastly inferior. This is an attitude Eleanor is familiar with as it is a common one, but she has the education, and the temperament, to remain outwardly calm while politely returning a cutting reply. As we have read in previous books, Prioress Eleanor is always being underestimated because of her tiny stature, but she has breeding and education, two advantages that stand her in good stead in many situations.
She needs both those advantages in dealing with these abbots as they all subscribe to their superiority and look upon all women as spawns of Satan (apart from one, but he is under the delusion that his 'activities' are private.) The sick abbot dies shortly after arriving in the Priory's hospital and Sister Anne, the sub-infirmarian, is not quite sure what caused his death. He had some of the symptoms of bladder stones, and some suggesting kidney disease, but he also had symptoms that didn't fit with either of those diagnoses.
The following day as the abbots were preparing to resume their journey, another abbot was taken ill. After talking it over the remaining five abbots decided in favour of continuing their journey to Norwich, only to have that plan foiled by the arrival of Crowner Ralph, brother of one of the abbots. He brought the unwelcome news that the road to Norwich was impassable because a bridge had collapsed under the weight of the snow. With no alternative, Prioress Eleanor quickly offers the hospitality of the new guest quarters for a longer stay. It is fair to say that neither the abbots nor the Priory are happy with this arrangement.
The abbots may technically be servants of God but in reality, each is ruthlessly ambitious for earthly rewards, such as a bishopric, and other material riches. Truly, they are a blight on the sanctity of those who should be dedicated to God's service, to be learned, serve as good examples to their monks and be men of holiness.
The second abbot dies, and then a third and Sister Anne, Brother Thomas, Prioress Eleanor and Crowner Ralph realise they are dealing with a coldblooded murderer. Ralph's brother, Abbot Odo, the corpulent abbot who matched wits with Eleanor upon their arrival, becomes very ill, but is saved from death because his gluttony is matched by his gourmet tastes; and inquiries by Ralph and Brother Thomas take on an urgency. Brother Thomas undertakes informal inquiries and Crowner Ralph, formal ones. Sisters Anne and Olivia study herbals, and Prioress Eleanor seeks solitude to think her way logically through the sequence of events.
Meanwhile the everyday life within the Priory continues, with Prioress Eleanor still deeply concerned over Gracia's future, and some lighthearted moments with Eleanor's big ginger cat. We catch up on Ralph's family and Signy and her two adopted children.
This is a well-written and crafted story that holds the reader's interest with the author's gift of pacing the story so that it flows without dragging, but also without rushing to a conclusion. This author has a unique turn of phrase and uses the English language beautifully and with a skill not many authors are gifted with. Dialogue and settings are authentic, and the research into the period shows great attention to detail.
I recommend reading the books in order, but each could be read as a stand alone novel. Because I have read this series (thrice) and also several other mediaeval series I am familiar with the terminology and the customs of the time, whatever we may think of some of them now!
By-the-way, the murderer was caught.
The story becomes very complex as the abbots are traveling to meet a special papal legate with a possible bishopric for one of them. Their intense rivalry repeatedly flares to the surface. The abbots like the more the earthly pleasures than religious life which is put to the test when being required to live a much simpler life in small priory of Tyndal. To add to this mix, one of the abbots is the brother of Crowner Ralf. As the story unfolds, it only made me want to read more.
Again, the B-story weaved well into the main story and contributed to the richness of the main story and made the reading more enjoyable for me. Because of his relationship with one of the abbots and how the story unfolds, much more is revealed about Crowner Ralf. One of the major B-stories that concerns Prioress Eleanor’s maid also reveals more of her personality. This novel really adds to the whole B-story flowing through this series.
Now, this is the thirteenth novel, so can this novel be read first or is too much lost. I believe that this novel can be read without any real lost in the B-story. The author adds the necessary background to understand the actions of the standard cast of characters.
Unless you are quite knowledgeable about life in the late thirteenth century or have a dictionary that has those terms defined, I do recommend reading this novel on a kindle. The reason is that the author uses many terms indigenous to that period. The dictionary with the Kindle is very good in this aspect.
Overall, another excellent story that keep my interest until the early hours of the next day, I rate this novel with five stars. The story moves with a steady pace and delivered for me much reading pleasure. Do give this novel a try if you have not read one of her novels before.
I have received a free kindle version of this novel through NetGalley from Poisoned Pen Press with a request for an honest, unbiased review. I wish to thank Poisoned Pen Press for the opportunity to read this novel.
The setting was beautiful and descriptive. The workings of the abbey fascinated me and how women of the time tried to manage their lives in the restricted sphere they were allocated to. How men tried to control women, their possessions and their power for their own greed.
Very well told.