Another Review at MyShelf.Com


Publisher: Forge (Tom Doherty Associates)
Release Date: September 2002
ISBN: 0765300192
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre: Mystery / Historical Crime (1139, Oxford)
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:


Bone of Contention
Magdalene la Batarde Mystery, No. 3
By Roberta Gellis

     After the domestic murders in Roberta Gellis' second Magdalene la Batarde novel, A Personal Devil, this third adventure turns its attention to the political affairs taking place in the wider sphere. Magdalene's patron, the powerful William of Ypres, wants her to travel to Oxford to provide a comfortable lodging for him - and more besides. Bell goes with her, and the two find themselves in a tumultuous city where King Stephen is holding council. They haven't been there very long before a murder takes place of a man-at-arms, the gross Aimery St Cyr, who is claiming to be betrothed to heiress Loveday. Trouble is, the accused is Loveday's own choice for a husband Niall Arvagh who is also one of William's men, and Loveday also appears to have two more suitors. From her lodgings in the Soft Nest, a whorehouse well known to her in the past, Magdalene has to shelter Loveday, entertain Bell and William (but not together) and find out whodunit…

      If you are a whodunit fan and associate this period with the works of Ellis Peters, think again, as you won't find these superbly researched books anything like the Cadfael stories. There is a lot of reading in this novel and much to enjoy: the tortuous plot, well-delineated characters, meticulous descriptions of places and political shenanigans, not to mention Gellis' keen sense of fun. Some writers might deliver a history lesson and hold up the action, but here the author's solid knowledge of the period is used as a seasoning, as well as a firm underpinning, making it seem as though a window has opened into another age. Romance is one of the many ingredients in this heady mix as Magdalene tries to sort out her own love life and Loveday battles against suitors both wanted and unwanted. After a solid start in A Mortal Bane, this series has gone from strength to strength and this third volume is the best yet, boldly moving away from the safe haven of The Old Priory Guesthouse to the seething political cauldron of Oxford and Stephen's great council meeting. The time that history says was "when Christ and his Saints slept" has seldom been so entertainingly delineated. Highly enjoyable.


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