By Cassandra Clark.
Hildegard is scarcely off the ship home before she finds herself ankle deep in corpses. Brother Anselm has allegedly committed suicide, but Hubert doesn’t believe a word of it, and Ulf, Roger de Hutton’s steward, has allegedly murdered his ghastly wife, Eunice.
Hildegard tracks Ulf down, but gets shot with a crossbow bolt for her pains and confined to barracks, but even that can’t stop her from continuing her investigations with the help of Gregory, Egbert and Pierrekyn.
When Sir Bernard Vavasour, his wife Avis, and the local sheriff come for Ulf, Hubert thrusts a big stick into the spokes of their intentions by forcing a hearing to be held at the abbey.
Ulf is proved to be innocent, and villainy is taken into custody. Brother Anselm’s killer is unmasked as well, and how the door of the scriptorium was barred from the inside is also revealed.
Clark seems to be trying too hard to create suspense at times as one event after another goes unexplained, and I began to worry that the book was going to end in a lengthy exposition tying up all of the loose ends that were flapping around like a drunk octopus in a hurricane. Gregory ended up performing that role to some extent, but it was at least integrated into the story rather than ending up as a retrospective monologue from one of the characters.
We already know that Hildegard plays fast and loose with her vows as a Cistercian, and she does so unexpectedly again, confessing to her transgression quite freely. Hubert is suitably annoyed because he’s also been waiting for her to decide what her future is going to be, but Hildegard once again dodges the issue, and by the end of the book remains a member of the church (but quite possibly with a dispensation to have sex with whichever bloke she fancies).
Hubert, like the good Guardian reader he is, acknowledges his own shortcomings, but questions regarding his allegiance remain without any clear resolution, and the exact nature of his relationship with Hildegard could become a tedious distraction if Clark insists on pursuing the whole will-they-won’t-they line.
On a more practical note, there are a number errors in the Kindle edition. Pierrekyn’s name is misspelt several times, and Sir Bernard’s wife, Avis, is mixed up with Ulf’s wife, Eunice, in a couple of place.