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.
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.
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!
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