Clark, Cassandra - 'Hangman Blind'
This is the first in a series following Sister Hildegard through the turbulent ages of medieval Britain. Her singular position, as a wealthy widow with some religious connections, allows her an element of independence along with the scope to freely move in places where many women of the day would be more restricted.
In HANGMAN BLIND Sister Hildegard is searching for a place to site a new abbey where she can set up a small sisterhood to help the poor and sick, whilst able to grieve properly the death of her husband. Seeking the approval and advice of the Abbot of Meaux she sets out across Yorkshire only to find death and intrigue.
In her travels she comes across six dead men, five hanged and one brutally slaughtered, a visible sign of the conflicts and internal strife which are present in England during the winter of 1382. In addition, her friend Lord Roger de Hutton who tries to help her, both finding her abbey and tracking down the killers, is poisoned in his own castle.
Sister Hildegard finds herself following the clues and putting herself at danger, unpicking the various strands woven together in this complex mystery. Making sense of the evidence is only the first challenge, getting justice for rich and poor is even harder.
This book, set in the aftermath of the unsuccessful Peasant's Revolt and execution of Wat Tyler, is well crafted and creates a rich depiction of the events and the style of the period. Evoking the sights and sounds of the time, the picture that Cassandra Clark paints has depth and texture which involves the reader right from the shady beginning in the priory at Swyne to a duel in Castle Hutton.
I found this a well written and engaging story, using the historical context as a counterpoint to the independent and somewhat modern mindset of the main character Sister Hildegard. A great new series for historical crime readers.
Amanda Brown, England