As Edward I wages a bloody conflict with Wales, Prioress Eleanor escorts her younger brother, Robert, and his wife, who is in labor, from their Marcher lands to greater safety at a Wynethorpe manor in a village just inside the English border. They are joined by Brother Thomas, the Prioress's trusted friend, and Sister Anne, who helps navigate the difficult birth and delivers a baby girl.
Mother and child may be healthy, but Death never wanders far from this beloved Prioress—whether she's home at Tyndal in Norfolk or traveling the realm. The local abbot begs her help—the village priest has been found dead and standing over him is, a reliable witness says, the ghost of Hywel, the village stonemason who was recently hanged for slaying some sleeping English soldiers.
Bone tired, Brother Thomas questions the village hangman, who assures him that Hywel was hanged once and then, when the weight of the fat felon strung up alongside him broke the beam of the gallows, was hanged again. The experienced executioner checked all the bodily signs—Hywel was dead. But where is his grave? And what secrets are the mysterious locals keeping from the outsiders visiting their troubled home?
Edward I's England is again at war with Wales in Royal's excellent 15th whodunit set in 13th-century Britain (after 2018's Wild Justice). Prioress Eleanor, concerned about her brother, Robert, and his pregnant wife, Elizabeth, in Wales, accompanies the couple across the border to her ancestral property in England. The move enables Elizabeth to give birth in safety, but Eleanor's respite proves short-lived. The local abbot, Gerald, insists that she help with a terrifying mystery. Gerald's priest, Father Payn, was found dead on a path to the abbey by Bardolph, the hangman, who recognized the man kneeling over the corpse as Hywel, a Welshman who was recently executed for murdering English soldiers. Bardolph insists that the man he saw was Hywel, even as he asserts that Hywel was definitely dead after the hanging. While Father Payn's corpse bears no marks of violence, another death more strongly indicates that foul play is at work. Royal seamlessly integrates historical events into what stands as one her best puzzles, the most Agatha Christie like in terms of motive.
Wonderful medieval mystery!!
Another enjoyable Prioress Eleanor mystery by Priscilla Royal. This, like her other medieval mysteries, takes you on a fascinating journey back to 13th century England. If you are a fan of Ellis Peters and Sharon Kay Penman, you will love Priscilla Royal!