In the late summer of 1274, King Edward has finally been anointed England's ruler, and his queen contemplates a pilgrimage in gratitude for their safe return from Outremer, a journey that will include a stay at Tyndal Priory. Envoys are sent to confirm that everything will be suitable for the king's wife, and Prioress Eleanor nervously awaits them, knowing that regal visits bring along expense and honor. The cost is higher than expected, however, when Death arrives as the unexpected emissary. One of the courtiers is murdered near the hut where Brother Thomas now lives as a hermit. Each member of the party has reason to hate the dead man, including Crowner Ralf's eldest brother, Sir Fulke, and the prioress's nemesis, the man in black. Soon Eleanor is embroiled in the dangerous world of power games, both secular and religious. Indeed, England's future under a new king may offer hope and relief, but skeletons from the past can come back to life like those in the biblical valley of dry bones. Which had cause enough to kill?
Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal needs all her intelligence to quell the sacred and profane troubles that arise in Royal's rewarding seventh medieval mystery (after 2009's Chambers of Death). Complications begin when a party of courtiers arrives at the priory to scout stopping places for an upcoming pilgrimage by the queen. A worldly priest, a baron hoping to trade land for salvation, and a sinister manservant, among others, add their own conflicts to tensions already simmering at the priory. When the baron is found murdered, suspicion spreads from his fellow travelers to Tyndal's inhabitants and friends. While the initial introduction of characters and backstory drags, Royal brings her usual clarity, insight, and power to the rest of the novel. Accurate both to its 13th-century period and to the unchanging nature of the human soul, this series deserves both its loyal followers and its new fans.