It is midnight when Hildegard disembarks at Ravenser on the last leg of the long journey home to Meaux. Accompanied by Abbot de Courcy and the two monks militant, Egbert and Gregory, she has left Avignon, Salisbury and Netley Abbey behind. But before the group reach the Abbey of Meaux, they are met by a cortege in the darkening fog, bearing a body to an unconsecrated grave.
The Abbot is shocked to hear that the dead man was found in the locked scriptorium at Meaux. As soon as he lifts the coffin lid he orders the cortege to return to the abbey at once.
Hildegard is grief-sricken the next morning to learn that her childhood sweetheart, Ulf of Langbar, is to hang for murder.
With help from the renegade minstrel Pierrekyn Haverel and the two monks Hildegard sets out to save Ulf and discover the secret of the body at Meaux.
But Abbot de Courcy steps in and threatens her with excommunication. "If we were in France I could have you burned as a witch!"
What has she done? And, more, how can she save Ulf from the hangman and discover the secret of the body in the locked chamber?
Meanwhile, as ever, King Richard's enemies tighten their control over the realm of England and the young king walks in fear for his life...
Ninth in the series
Book Eight - THE ALCHEMIST OF NETLEY ABBEY
Desperate to return ot Meaux after traumatic events in London and Salisbury, intrepid nun Hildegard and her charismatic but untouchable abbot, Hubert de Courcy, set out at last with their two monks militant through the New Forest on the long journey north.
Fate, however, intervenes.
Even before they escape the labyrinthine paths of the Royal Forest Hubert is in need of urgent medical attention and they are forced to seek shelter at the mysterious Netley Abbey.
Although welcomed inside the precincts, all is not as it seems.
A motley group of pilgrims are waiting to take ship to France. Guests secretly come and go. Are they spies, professional assassins, or something even more threatening for the security of King Richard's realm? And why are they here in this remote and beautiful place so far away from the executions of the king's allies in Westminster?
A Welsh alchemist reputed to have strange powers adds his own sinister desires to the brew and, when a valuable book disappears, two deaths follow. Who is to blame?
Hildegard becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and defies all perils to discover the frightening truth.
Eighth in the series
Book Seven - THE SCANDALL OF THE SKULLS
Murder and mayhem engulf Hildegard of Meaux and sexy abbot Hubert de Courcy in a seventh mystery as soon as they get back from Avignon. They arrive secretly on the English coast, in a storm, at dead of night. Why the secrecy? Because the duke of Gloucester, head of the King's Council in Westminster, is savagely condemning every single one of young King Richard's allies to death at The Merciless Parliament. Even his tutor, the nationally beloved Sir Simon Burley, is in the Tower awaiting execution. Outraged by Gloucester's cold ambition and diabolical cunning, Hildegard is willingly drawn into a plot to free Sir Simon by the ambiguous knight in grey. Meanwhile, an apprentice is found hanging from a rope in Salisbury Cathedral. Are both events linked and if so, how? Hildegard defies death to discover the truth.
Seventh in the series
Book Seven - TEN WEEKS THAT CHANGED ENGLAND FOREVER
This is a prequel to Hildegard's story. I intend it as a gift to her many fans who ask, why on earth did she become a nun? She is in her early thirties when the series starts with HANGMAN BLIND but in this, her back story, she is still only twenty-two, a widow with two small children. So why did she become a nun and get mixed up in affairs of state as a detective and a spy? Meet her in the turbulent London of 1376 when John of Gaunt and the barons are trying to silence the Commons who are demanding an end to corruption. The realm is on the brink of civil war. It will not be much later when the streets are running with blood in the so-called Peasants' Revolt as ordinary men and women make a cry for freedom. At the same time Hildegard is trying to reclaim her lands in the Welsh Marches but at Westminster she witnesses the brutal beginnings of the long and savage battle for freedom when a king will die for the Crown.
Book Six - THE BUTCHER OF AVIGNON
King Richard can trust no one. His uncle, the ambitious and brutal Thomas Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, is in alliance with the earl of Arundel, brother of the newly appointed archbishop. They accuse Richard's closest allies of treason for which the penalty is a barbaric butchering. Where can Richard go to find allies? The Prioress sends Hildegard to Avignon to find out what the schismatic Pope Clement thinks. Whose side is he on? He lives like a Renaissance prince in his gothic and labyrinthine palace. But when Hildegard arrives she is put in more immediate danger by the discovery of a body in Clement's secret treasure store. Like Richard, who can Hildegard trust? There is no-one - until Abbot de Courcy arrives with his two supporters, military monks, seasoned veterans on the road to Jerusalem. But can she even trust Hubert? What is he doing here in the enemy camp? When she encounters a man from her worst mightmares on the soaring roof of the palace is this the one she cannot survive? Surely now there is no escape?
Book Five - THE DRAGON OF HANDALE
In the fifth in this stellar series Hildegard returns from pilgrimage to Compostela only to be sent by her Prioress to the remote and sinister Handale Priory. Used as a house of correction for sinning nuns, it lies in the north of the county in the middle of a vast wood and is run by the ambiguous Abbess Basilda and her close group of hard-faced acolytes. Hildegard discovers the corpse of a young man in the morgue and is told that the dragon of Handale has killed him. But Hildegard does not believe in dragons. Warned against walking in the woods sherefuses to be penned in like a prisoner and discovers a secret tower, locked and barred, with armed men on guard. What is so valuable that it needs a guard? Has it anything to do with the mystery of the young man's death? And why have assassins been pursuing the King's courier across the savage moorlandonly to murder him at a lonely wayside tavern? Hildegard risks all dangers to seek out the truth.
Book Four - A PARLIAMENT OF SPIES
The Parliament of Spies fourth in the Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery series
The dark side of Chaucer's London - King Richard's enemies are closing in and the French are about to invade. The country is in uproar.
Hildegard is drawn into a network of spies at the Westminster parliament. A gruesome poisoning threatens the queen. Worse is to follow and as well as that Hildegard falls for a London bad boy. Will the king keep his crown? Will Hildegard survive?
Summer, 1385. The sun is hot and high, promising a fine harvest - but storm-clouds of insurrection are gathering over England. Lollard heretics, driven from their base at Oxford by the iron fist of the Archbishop Courtenay, now roam the land sowing sedition and a return to the bloodshed that swept over the country during the Great Rebellion seems certain. In the capital, the boy king Richard II is now seventeen; his uncle John of Gaunt still refuses to step aside for his ward. Hildegard of Meaux - sleuth, spy and now an abbess of the powerful Cistercian order - has found refuge from a world of violence and blood-feud at her new house in Yorkshire.
But by taking a bonded maid into the fold, Hildegard has made a dangerous enemy, an enemy who thinks nothing of destroying her little sanctuary to further his own ends. Meanwhile her own history, and her possession of a priceless relic, threatens to drag her into the schemes of traitors to the crown who seek to overthrow King Richard's regime - including the ruthless Henry Bolingbroke. And with portents in York that the end of days is imminent; signs expressed by death in fire, can even the resourceful Hildegard unweave the tangled skein of conspiracy?
The latest installment in the critically acclaimed Hildegard of Meaux Mysteries, The Law Of Angels vividly recreates the conflicting worlds of Medieval England - a place where loyalty meets treason and murderous superstition.
Published by John Murray in hardback (March 2009) and in paperback (October 2009) and by St Martin's Press (November 2009.)
The year is 1384 and Hildegard is sent on a mission to Rome to bring back the legendary Cross of Constantine but powerful enemies are determined she will not succeed and her own life is in jeopardy.
Meanwhile the plot to depose King Richard thickens...
"The rains started before Martinmas and swept throughout Europe bringing floods, murrain and the plague. They did not cease until St Lucy's Day when a brief respite lasted until the new year. After Epiphany they returned with greater force and had not stopped since."
Now in a gorgeous new ebook version on Kindle and ipad. Download now!
DID YOU KNOW ...
Ten year old King Richard lost his little red turn shoe at his coronation and onlookers said it meant he would also lose his crown.
His turn shoe was made of velvet, studded with tiny seed pearls.
Book One - HANGMAN BLIND
This is the first book about Hildegard, published by John Murray in hardback (March 2008) and in paperback (September 2008). It is also in large print and in a cd and cassette collection read by the excellent Julia Barry. The American edition was published in October 2008 by St Martin's Press.
The title HANGMAN BLIND comes from a game played at the court of the young King Richard II and his wife Anne of Bohemia. It was like the game we know as Blindman's Buff although, from contemporary accounts, it was far more violent. In this book Hildegard is caught up in a deadly game with murder as the penalty and only the Hangman can win.
"It is November 1382, the month of the dead, and Hildegard rides out from her priory in Swyne for the Abbey of Meaux. It is a time of rival popes, a boy king on the throne of England, and a shaky peace in the savage aftermath of Wat Tyler's murder during the Great Rebellion. Hildgard has embarked on a perilous mission, to try to secure the future of her priory. Travelling alone, she encounters first a gibbet with five bloodied corpses hanging from it and then the butchered body of a youth. What do these gruesome deaths mean? Hildegard is determined to uncover the truth, no matte how dangerous it may be."
In the pages of HANGMAN BLIND you can meet some of the characters who will play a part in later episodes.
The fabulous Dufay Collective playing a salterello from their latest cd A L'Estampida.