Valley of Dry Bones (Medieval Mystery Series #7)by Priscilla Royal
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In the late summer of 1274, King Edward has finally been anointed England’s ruler, and his queen contemplates a pilgrimage in gratitude for their safe return from Outremer, a journey that will include a stay at Tyndal Priory. Envoys are sent to confirm that everything will be suitable for the king’s wife, and Prioress Eleanor nervously awaits them, knowing that regal visits bring along expense and honor. The cost is higher than expected, however, when Death arrives as the unexpected emissary. One of the courtiers is murdered near the hut where Brother Thomas now lives as a hermit. Each member of the party has reason to hate the dead man, including Crowner Ralf’s eldest brother, Sir Fulke, and the prioress’s nemesis, the man in black. Soon Eleanor is embroiled in the dangerous world of power games, both secular and religious. Indeed, England’s future under a new king may offer hope and relief, but skeletons from the past can come back to life like those in the biblical valley of dry bones. Which had cause enough to kill?
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Priscilla Royal's 'Valley of Dry Bones' continues her successful medieval series set in Tyndal priory, a small religious 'double house' where monks and nuns run a hospital and pursue their religious vocations. Eleanor of Wynthethorpe, the likeable and intriguing prioress, provides the fulcrum around which the stories revolve. Briefly, 'Valley of Dry Bones' entails plans for the visit of King Edward's queen to the priory; she wishes to undertake a pilgrimage of thanks for their safe return from Outremer. Among the envoys sent to arrange the queen's visit are Eleanor's nemesis, the mysterious man in black (returned from earlier novels), Crowner Ralf's eldest brother, Sir Fulke, a widow, her errant son and mute servant, and a blackmailer. Needless to say, one of the travellers will remain permanently at Tyndal priory. Royal's characters change and grow from one book to the next, and since this is the seventh in the series, there are strong undercurrents between the recurring characters. Eleanor is committed to her vocation and is a clever and thoughtful leader, but she is also a young woman strongly attracted to one the priests - Brother Thomas. At the opening of 'Valley of Dry Bones,' Thomas, who is troubled by deeds from his past, is living as a hermit outside the priory, and it is near his hut that the traveler is murdered. The strong point of Royal's novel is her meticulous historical research which seamlessly becomes the focus of the novel. The reader is not, as so often happens, jarred by the author's use of research just because it was on hand. And her characters, from the lustful Eleanor to the penitent Thomas, are universal in appeal. However, 'The Valley of Dry Bones' lacks the spark that ignites the reader's interest. Royal's syntax can be a bit stilted at the best of times; her characters, human as they are, fail to come alive. The bottom line: Three stars. A good solid read for those who enjoy medieval mysteries, but unfortunately 'solid' can verge on 'stolid.'
In 1274 Queen Eleanor is coming to the Tyndal Priory on a pilgrimage. Ahead of her Highness' visit, an advanced party of courtiers arrives to set up her visit including places for the monarch to stop. Tyndal Prioress Eleanor struggles with the royal invasion even before the Queen comes. Besides dealing with the pompous members of court demanding all sorts of inane things, she must deal with the overbearing odious Baron Otes bartering land for salvation. However, Eleanor handles everyone and everything with aplomb and prayers until someone murders the pompous Baron. Suspicion is cast on his traveling companions and those who live at or near Tyndal. Eleanor sets out to find the killer so that her place of worship is not misconstrued as a sinful place even as she firmly believes God knows the truth. The latest Prioress Eleanor's medieval mystery (see Forsaken Soul and Chambers of Death) is a fabulous whodunit with a nod to The Pardoner's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The story line starts off by insuring the readers know the key cast members so when murder occurs on the eve of the royal visit, suspects abound as motives are plentiful. Readers will relish this strong entry as pure capitalist ventures (then and now) include the selling of salvation. Harriet Klausner