on 28 October 2005
If you have enjoyed Alys Clare's previous Hawkenlye mysteries, you will love this one, the 7th in the series.
Sir Josse and Abbess Helewise get tangled up in yet another web of intrigues and mysteries: a beautiful young girl is murdered, her husband loses his mind, and Josse has to face some of his demons if he wants to see his investigation through.
As always, Alys Clare' s description of life in the middle ages is vivid and lively; and our attachment to her two main characters and their relationship only grows with each new book.
Previous books in the series, although very well written and still compelling reads, were lacking slightly in "whodunnit" material. Whiter Than The Lily is better than its predecessors in that it is a very good whodunnit, with and an unexpected twist at the end.
I am giving it 4 stars so that I can hopefully add another star to the next instalment - a recommended book on all levels!
on 7 April 2007
This is the first Alys Clare I have read, and based on this one, I will certainly read more. When I bought it, I assumed it would be similar to most other medieval whodunnits, of which I am quite a fan. But this is in a different league. The mystery starts on the first page and then keeps on building. I thought that I had figured out what was going on, but I was completely wrong. This is a very clever story, not many people will anticipate the outcome. The story develops well and I found it difficult to put down. The characters are likeable and believeable, the story is interesting and intriguing. Try it, you won't be disappointed!
Sir Josse has been invited to visit his neighbour Brice's manor and while he is there Brice says that he would like Sir Josse to meet some friends of his. Not wishing to appear impolite Josse agrees to travel with him to his friends.
When they arrive Sir Josse finds that there is an ulterior motive to their visit. The elderly knight he has been brought to see has a young and beautiful wife of seventeen or eighteen who is devoted to her husband and although they have been trying since their marriage they have been unable to conceive a child. The knight Sir Ambrose has been told of Josse's involvement with Hawkenlye Abbey and the success they have had with healing the sick in mind and body.
After speaking with Sir Josse, Ambrose agrees to allow his wife Galiena to go on ahead to the Abbey with her maid and groom and he will follow in a couple of days. His hope is that the nuns can help his wife with their inability to have a child.
However when Galiena arrives at the Abbey she is alone and her demeanour is totally different to the happy and devoted wife the nuns had expected. A tragic death sets Sir Josse on the path of danger and intrigue. The Abbess Helewise becomes embroiled in the same dangers that face Josse and the perils reach out to the Abbey itself . . .
First Sentence: The walled garden lay as if stunned under the hot May sunshine.
Josse d'Acquin is taken to the Isle of Oxney where he meets an older man and his young wife who despair of having a child. When asked, Josse supports their idea of the wife traveling to The Abbey of Hawkenlye where Josse's friend, Abbess Helewise, and her nuns might help the young wife. Once there, the woman keep refuses examination and keeps herself sequestered. The husband arrives later, much addled and unwell. But for Josse, who comes to the Abbey, something doesn't add up, particularly when the woman dies and is found to have been pregnant.
Vivid descriptions are a hallmark of Ms. Clare's writing whether it is of the area in spring, thunderstorms, or of dreams. That, along with a lovely, gentle humor to the author's voice and a touch of the paranormal to the story, although much less than in some of the previous books, are some of the reasons why I so enjoyed this book.
English history is an interest of mine. Ms. Clare goes beyond providing interesting information and facts. She views those facts in terms of their impact on the lives of the people such as the strain on people to raise money for King Richard's ransom... "Although Helewise understood why such an expensive campaign had been necessary, a port of her could not help wondering whether knights, lords and kings with the passion and the thrill of holy war filling their heads ought to pause just for a moment to wonder if it was all worth it."
As always, I read for interesting, realistic characters. I love that, in spite of being Abbess, Helowise had a full life prior to becoming Abbess. I appreciate Josse's uncertainties and frustration at the realization of how little he knows and how few facts he has in trying to learn what happened. However, it's the relationship between Helewise and Jose; one of friendship, respect and support but with the affection always contained, that is the central focus of the stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am pleased I've many more books ahead of me. I do recommend the series and suggest reading it in order.
WHITER THAN THE LILY (Hist. Mys-Josse d'Acquin/Abbess Helewise-England-1190s) - G+
Clare, Alys - 7th in series
Hodder & Stoughton, ©2004, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 0340831111
on 10 June 2013
I have not yet become tired of the adventures of the Abbess and Josse. They behave correctly, but oh what simmers beneath the surface. As usual after several red herrings they arrive at he answer, often entirely unexpected. Quite often the answer is obvious, but never in these stories have I come near to it.