Priscilla Royalís Eleanor of Tynedal series is definitely not just another "next Cadfael" medieval
mystery set amongst the religieux. Eleanor is prioress over a joint house containing both monks and
nuns, a rare thing made even more unusual through having a woman in charge. Sheís also in her 20s,
seemingly young and inexperienced for such a position, although such appointments back then were
often more about politics than strict suitability. Reflecting their setting, these stories also have
a certain earthiness, which starts with Eleanorís struggles over an unwanted lust for her partner in
detection, Brother Thomas, along with Thomasís own struggles, which are behind his being assigned to
her priory. This not only helps set them apart from the Brother Cadfael books, which are pretty cozy,
but also gives a real insight into what was not only a genuinely earthier time, but also one where
religion was more firmly integrated into how people thought about everything.
Through Eleanorís insistence on making an ill-advised business trip with Brother Thomas, she ends
up caught in a miserable storm with a company that includes a desperately ill young girl. Fortunately,
they are near one of the Earl of Lincolnís manors, and a welcome offer of shelter there. Or is it so
fortunate? Immediately upon arrival, Eleanor is worn out even further with an effusive but unnerving
greeting dwelling on the sin that is there and the welcome rescue of her own holiness. Things get
worse as she finds herself caught up in the decidedly odd relations between her fellow residents, some
of whom are pretty odd on their own, all of which ultimately leads to murder.
The Sheriffís reputation for quick solutions that involve pinning the blame on someone too lowly
to cause trouble means Eleanor and Thomas have to get involved if there is to be justice. Not that it
will be easy—if things arenít complicated enough, the Sheriff has made it clear that he knows
about Eleanorís past investigations and has no intention of letting her get involved in this one.
I like this series as a whole, but itís also one where Iím more up and down about individual books.
This is one of the good ones, and definitely recommended. Interesting characters, a plot with plenty
of twists and turns, vivid writing, and a relatively fresh take on whatís become almost a historical