Top positive review
A Personal Favourite
on 10 July 2016
The second book in the Magdalene la Batarde series is even more enjoyable than the first, as the author skillfully develops each of the main characters further, even while introducing some equally fascinating newcomers. Sabina has left the Old Priory Guesthouse, to live under the protection of Master Mainard Saddler, in rooms above his business. This has led to problems between Magdalene and Sir Bellamy (Bell) of Itchen, knight to the Bishop of Winchester - who owns the Guesthouse. Bell wants Magdalene for himself, but cannot accept that she insists on keeping her own freedom, and must now 'entertain' some of the visitors to the Guesthouse, since the loss of the blind Sabina. Even as Bell finds a suitable replacement for the latter, Sabina returns under difficult circumstances, for Mainard's wife, an unpleasant, hurtful shrew with a love of causing problems for others, has been found murdered outside Mainard's workyards. The ensuing tangle of investigations, exposed plots, blackmail, and general misunderstandings makes for another absorbing mystery in the South Wark of the 12th Century.
Roberta Gellis has the ability to take history and bind it, and the details of everyday life, within her tales in such a way as to make the whole thing natural and utterly seamless. It's as though she's absorbed the life and times of the age, and is putting them on the page as matter-of-factly as a modern writer would use electricity, telephones, the Internet. I've only once in this book been shaken out of the period, and that was for a single use of that grating Americanism "I guess", which I'd doubt very much was used then. There are a few instances of two words running together, but on the whole this book is error free, and I loved every minute of it. If you enjoy accurate, historical murder mysteries with brilliantly-portrayed characters about whom you want to read more, this is a book and a series for you.