A Parliament of Spies: A Mystery

Overview

All the danger and intrigue of 14th-century England spring to life in this "compelling" (Publishers Weekly) series about the brave, incorruptible Abbess of Meaux.

Abbess Hildegard may consider herself  “just a nun with no useful skills or connections,” yet her loyalty and intelligence have brought her to the attention of King Richard II himself—not the safest place to be, when the king has enemies on all sides. As Hildegard wrestles with her role as a ...

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A Parliament of Spies: A Mystery

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Overview

All the danger and intrigue of 14th-century England spring to life in this "compelling" (Publishers Weekly) series about the brave, incorruptible Abbess of Meaux.

Abbess Hildegard may consider herself  “just a nun with no useful skills or connections,” yet her loyalty and intelligence have brought her to the attention of King Richard II himself—not the safest place to be, when the king has enemies on all sides. As Hildegard wrestles with her role as a spy in the parliament that is hastily gathering at Westminster, Cassandra Clark's A Parliament of Spies shows us the human side of history, giving readers new reason to follow Publishers Weekly’s rallying cry: “Medievalists rejoice!”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Clark expertly blends murder and Machiavellian politics in her stellar fourth 14th-century historical featuring Abbess Hildegarde (after 2011’s The Law of Angels). York archbishop Alexander Neville taps Hildegarde to accompany him on a trip to London, where she’s to serve as his spy. England is in turmoil under the tumultuous rule of Richard II, while the threat of a French invasion adds to the unrest and uncertainty. Before they set out, Neville’s saucier is found dead in a wine vat, evidently murdered, but Hildegarde has little time to use her deductive skills to ascertain the truth. The journey, plagued by further violence, leads to an enthralling climax that will determine the viability of Richard’s reign. Clark makes the most of the inherent drama of the times, without losing readers unfamiliar with the power players at work behind the scenes. Fans of strong female sleuths like Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma will feel right at home. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A debut author with raw nerve, Cassandra Clark places Hildegard, an independent woman of means, into an unheard-of role during this age....CSI meets the 14th century.” Historical Novels Review

"Social injustice and intrigue are irresistible in a mystery dripping in medieval history....Stellar." —Library Journal (starred review) on The Law of Angels

"Compelling….[Clark] paints an authentic picture of late medieval life." —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Red Velvet Turnshoe

"Deeply embedded in the historical events of the period, this is a rich tapestry; even the small figures are finely detailed and carefully situated in a dazzling array of events. Intriguing and evocative." —Kirkus Reviews on Hangman Blind

Library Journal
In her fourth outing (after The Law of Angels), the extraordinary medieval spy Abbess Hildegard meets physical and personal challenges while honoring her king's orders.
Kirkus Reviews
Sister Hildegard has had many a foreign adventure, but her latest escapade in 14th-century England is more dangerous than most. Childless monarchs are always vulnerable, so it's no surprise that many schemers are plotting to remove Richard II and his wife Anne of Bohemia from the English throne. Meanwhile, Hildegard (The Law of Angels, 2011, etc.) is accompanying Alexander Neville, Bishop of York, to London, where he wants her to spy on the Parliament being assembled as they await a French invasion. Before they leave Yorkshire, a servant is found murdered, but his death is the least of their concerns. On the journey they are attacked, and at a stop in Lincoln they run into Katharine Swynford, mistress of the king's enemy the Duke of Lancaster, and her obnoxious bastard son Sir Thomas Swynford. Once in London, Hildegard is horrified to discover her husband, long thought dead, is alive and wants to claim both her and his estate. When he tries to rape her, she is rescued at the last minute by a foreign friar. Later she learns that her savior is Rivera, a spy working for the King's enemies. After he rescues her from death a second time, they become lovers. Hildegard's world is in shambles as she awaits word on her status as a nun, fights her love for Rivera and attempts to unravel the complicated plots against the king. Mystery takes a back seat to copious historical detail in Hildegard's pleasing fourth adventure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312595746
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Series: Abbess Hildegard of Meaux Series , #4
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

CASSANDRA CLARK lives in London. This is the fourth novel in her acclaimed series featuring Abbess Hildegard. Her childhood spent in Yorkshire was her inspiration for the series.

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Read an Excerpt

A Parliament of Spies

A Mystery
By Cassandra Clark

Minotaur Books

Copyright © 2012 Cassandra Clark
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312595746

Parliament of Spies, A
Part OnePrologueEltham Palace. Morning. A tall fair young man strides down the narrow corridor towards the sound of splashing water. Steam billows through the half-open door ahead.He is wearing soft kidskin ankle boots that make no sound on the polished tiles. His brocade gown, wide sleeved, embroidered with silver harts and gold crowns, is swinging loosely open as he hurries towards his bathhouse.The flickering fires of the cressets that line the corridor are not more bright than he is. He glitters, sheds light as he strides along, his red-gold hair, his lucent skin, his shimmering garments, brighter than fire. Tapestries on both sides sway with his urgent haste, their own gold thread bringing the scenes of the hunt to life, a falcon stooping to its prey, a stag among the trees with huntsmen closing for the kill. The embroidered leaves seem rustled by the wind as the tapestries billow from the wall.A real wind from an open window tuckers underneath as he reaches the door and one of the tapestries bulges to meet him.He catches a glimpse of it out of the corner of his eye and gives a shout. A narrow-bladed knife appears in his hand. He launches himself at the unseen assassin. Stabs wildly into the swirling fabric. Stabs again and again. The gold and silver threads protect his assailant like thin armour. Then from within the folds a shape lurches forward and he raises the knife to finish them.But a shout stops him. Knife raised.'My Lord! No!'Swivelling, he sees Robert.White-faced, he is lunging forward, arms outstretched. 'Stop! Dickon! My Lord! Stop!'The newcomer throws himself against the King regardless of the knife, yelling again, 'Stop! Stop!''What?''It's Agnes!'The tall young man, fair and pale anyway, blanches. Sky-blue eyes darken. He steps back in horror.The bundle behind the tapestry struggles to free itself. Topples towards the two men. Robert tears the tapestry aside. 'Agnes?'A figure resolves itself into a young woman with long pale hair and a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.She falls into his arms.The King steps forward, the knife useless in his hand. 'Is there blood?'Agnes is sobbing with fear and relief. 'You missed me, Your Grace ...'He slams the knife back into the jewelled sheath on a gilded belt under his gown.Without another word he pushes on into the bathhouse and vanishes into the billowing steam.Agnes is still sobbing in her saviour's arms, shaky with relief, furious with herself. 'I thought I was dead ...''Fool. You know he fears assassins.' He kisses her roughly, with relief, with lust. 'No harm, angel - you're safe. But what were you thinking?''I just wanted to jump out and surprise him,' she whispers, allowing herself to be kissed. 'I meant it as a joke.''My mad Bohemian,' he whispers. 'We have to look after him. This is the one place he feels safe and then you frighten him like that. Oh, sweeting ...' He holds her more tenderly and begins to laugh.'I'll never ever do anything like that again.' She is still shaking.'He'll never forgive you.' 
When they enter the chamber with the wide tiled pool at its centre and a blonde-haired girl gravely swimming in the water, the King himself is already stepping down to join her. He smiles when he notices their expressions.'What else can we expect when we surround ourselves with mad Bohemians?' he asks Robert. 'Anne is quite as crazy.'He glances over to his wife where she floats serenely on her back, long hair flowing in elfin knots around her head making her look like a mermaid.'You may leave us.' He dismisses them both, calling, 'Iforgive you, Agnes. I'm greatly at fault. I pray you forgive me.'He is already planning to give his wife's madcap lady-in-waiting a balas ruby in recompense for the scare he gave her. For the scare he himself received, he will give thanks later in his private chapel to his protector, St Edmund.He turns back to his wife. Then stares in horror.Her face is deathly white.She is floating in a pool of blood.Copyright © 2012 by Cassandra Clark.

Continues...

Excerpted from A Parliament of Spies by Cassandra Clark Copyright © 2012 by Cassandra Clark. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted August 21, 2012

    Confusing cast of characters and murky, unfocused plot

    This is the fourth in a series of historical novels set in the 14th century. There is enormous historical detail, but the author allows the innumerable characters to mill about without delineating what their relationships are or allowing the reader a clear picture of where their loyalties lie. The protagonist is a Cistercian nun whose surprising behavior, presented with virtually no explanation, occupies many pages but does not really advance the plot. The plot is so diffuse that it's hard to tell whether the actions of the huge cast of named characters really have any effects at all. A lot of period research doubtless went into the writing, but the reader would have been better served with less history and more development of characters and story line.

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