New English Library (Hodder & Stoughton) - July 2001
ISBN 0340739363 - Paperback
Historical / British - 1191, Kent, England

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde,
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This is the third of the Hawkenlye mysteries featuring Abbess Helewise and Sir Josse d'Acquin (the first two were Fortune Like the Moon and Ashes of the Elements). Sir Josse D'Acquin has his work cut out for him when a man is found poisoned at a popular tavern in nearby Tonbridge, which hitherto had an excellent reputation for its food. Suspecting foul play he soon finds himself recovering in a hut in the Wealden Forest after having been hit over the head and is befriended by the mysterious Joanna and her son Ninian. But who are they, and what do they have to do with the murder? Abbess Helewise lies sick with a fever but Josse finds himself growing hot for quite a different reason.

The series is set during the tumultuous early days of King Richard I's reign when he was off on the Crusades and John as scheming to get the throne for himself. This in itself helps to ensure the series' popularity as it was such a turbulent and fascinating time and Clare manages to sketch in an authentic background without the facts swamping the story. I felt that this novel was the strongest so far with no need for editing and the characters starting to come to life a bit more although Sir Josse and Helewise lack the well-rounded personalities of Brother Cadfael and Sister Frevisse and apart from being good folk who solve crimes remain elusive and subservient to the plot. I didn't guess it all though and it certainly kept me reading happily on and entertained. A series that improves with each book and is good if not great.

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