Medieval Mysteries #14 and #15
It is Spring 1282. England is at war again with Wales. As Baron Hugh of Wynethorpe, a veteran of fighting in Outremer, prepares to join his King's army, he begs his sister, Prioress Eleanor, a favor. On her journey home to Tyndal Prior in Norfolk, she is to carry a gift of rents from the Wynethorpe estates to Mynchen Buckland Priory. The charter for the grant and a private letter are to be given to the Hospitaller nuns' Prioress Amicia, and none other. Eleanor agrees - if Hugh is heading into the Welsh wilderness, then she, Eleanor, will do him this service as well as pray for his protection.
When she and her party of Brother Thomas and Sister Anne arrive in cold and rain-sodden Somerset, they receive a chilly welcome. Then the new Prioress at Mynchen Buckland delivers shocking news: Amicia has been imprisoned, convicted of murdering a widow from the village in the priory's cloister, and awaits sentencing by the Prior of England, the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem's regional head in London. Eleanor gives Hugh's grant to newly elected Prioress Emelyne, but insists she must obey her brother's wishes by having an audience with Amicia in her cell. Eleanor is resolute in wishing to fulfill her promise by delivering Hugh's letter into Amicia's hands. Permission is granted.
Eleanor is unprepared for Amicia's terribly frail condition. And more so when Amicia reads the Baron's letter, then tearfully begs Tyndal's prioress to prove her innocence, claiming she did not commit the crime. Eleanor believes her.
In an unfamiliar place, the murder victim buried, and nothing left at the crime site, what can the Tyndal trio unearth? And how can they prolong their visit? Eleanor has it - she fakes a fall and injury to her ankle which requires nursing. Thomas and Anne will have to be her investigators, though they are closely chaperoned by members of the Mynchen Buckland community. Still, they learn the dead woman's unsavory behavior had made her well hated. Will anyone help uncover the real killer when so many welcomed the victim's death?
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THE TWICE-HANGED MAN
It is Autumn, 1282. Edward I, more often hammering the Scots, is at war with Wales and it is not going as well as he wished. Everyone is edgy on both sides of the loosely defined border between England and Wales. Crucial battles have been lost. Raids are common. Death is a constant threat.
Prioress Eleanor is escorting her younger brother, Robert, and his wife, who is in labor, from their Marcher lands to greater safety at a Wynethorpe manor in a village just inside the English border. With her are Brother Thomas and Sister Anne, the sub-infirmarian and a good woman to have at a difficult birth. The baby arrives, a girl.
Mother and child may be healthy, but Death never wanders far from this beloved Prioress - whether she's home at Tyndal in Norfolk or traveling the realm. The local abbot begs her help. - the village priest has been found dead and standing over him is, a reliable witness says, the ghost of Hywel, the village stonemason yet a Welshman, and recently hanged for slaying some sleeping English soldiers. The abbot has failed to exorcise this malign spirit - surely the saintly visitors from Tyndal Priory in far away Norfolk, can do the job.
Bone tired, Eleanor questions the village hangman, who assures the religious party that Hywel was hanged once and then, when the weight of the fat felon strung up alongside him broke the beam, was hanged again. The experienced executioner checked all the bodily signs - Hywel was dead. But where is his grave? And why is the hangman quite soon found hanged? And what manner of secrets are so many of the locals - the sheriff and his household, the spice merchant, Maud the Bawd - keeping?
About the Author
Priscilla Royal, author of fourteen books from Poisoned Pen Press in the Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas medieval mystery series, grew up in British Columbia and earned a BA in World Literature at San Francisco State University where she discovered the beauty of medieval literature. Before retiring from the Federal Government in 2000, she worked in a variety of jobs, all of which provided an excellent education in the complexity of human experience and motivation. She is a theater fan as well as a reader of history, mystery, and fiction of lesser violence. When not hiding in the thirteenth century, she lives in Northern California and is a member of California Writers Club, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.