A Deadly Penance
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, my take:
When a member of the retinue of Lady Nicolaa de la Haye's sister is killed on the castle ramparts during a feast, it initially looks like a husband may have discovered the dead man dallying with his wife. But then Lady Nicolaa is told that the dead man fancied himself a bastard of royal blood, and he was determined to find his birth mother to prove his royal parentage.
Lady Nicolaa asks Templar knight Bascot de Marins to help her solve the murder. He tracks down the smallest clues to discover the tangled web of possible suspects from the past and present.
A Deadly Penance is a historical mystery set in 1203 in England. This novel is the sixth in the series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand or enjoy this one. This book did not spoil any of the previous mysteries in the series.
The story was written using more formal language and many "big" words. The author also assumed that the reader knew the meaning of several terms related to the castle and medieval weaponry. While each shop in town was described in detail (more than was really needed), the castle wasn't. Though I have a good knowledge of castles and the time period, I was never really able to work out how this castle was laid out. The story was rich with historical detail, sometimes to the point of briefly slowing the pacing.
However, I liked the characters (though we don't get to "know" any of them very well), and they reacted realistically to the situations. I also enjoyed the mystery. Bascot was determined in his search, and the solution was discovered by carefully following up every clue.
For most of the story, I didn't even bother to guess whodunit because the clues slowly build up and the answer wasn't obvious. But we're given enough clues that I was able to correctly guess whodunit and why the murder was committed shortly before Bascot put it all together correctly. Others reading the story with me came up with the solution (with a slight, incorrect, variation on it) at about the same time I did. Personally, I think that's the mark of a good mystery.
There were no sex scenes. (The story started with two lovers, but there was no body-part touching described below the face.) There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and clever mystery to those who have a large vocabulary.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read chapter one using Google Preview.