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.
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."
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.