I know Roberta Gellis as one of the finest medieval romance writers ever and have found the same accurate historical details, vivid pictures of everyday life in the past, and exceptional characterizations that I love in her romances to be equally true for her mystery series. These center on Magdalene la Batarde, proprietor of the Old Priory Guesthouse, a brothel.

King Stephen is bringing his council to Oxford when Magdalene's old friend William of Ypres sends for her. One of his men, Niall Arvagh of Murcot, has been accused of murdering the vile Aimery St. Cyr, who claimed to be betrothed to the woman Niall loves.

This might appear to be a simple murder case, but there are rumors that tie William to the killing. At a time when political intrigues run high, he needs Magdalene's help in solving the crime and keeping him clear of trouble.

Into the mystery comes Sir Ichen of Bellamy, Magdalene's friend and a man she could easily love. Their relationship must be put on hold as Magdalene immerses herself in the world she once knew, that of barmaids and prostitutes, to gather the evidence she needs to help William and Niall.

This is not the middle ages of knights and princesses, but the very earthy world of the ordinary man—lower knights, working people and even those of the lower class. Ms. Gellis manages to make them as heroic as a knight in shining armor and as real as the people you know. Not only is BONE OF CONTENTION a brilliantly plotted mystery, but also a colorful portrait of the life, times and politics of the medieval age. You'll be enthralled by the incredible Magdalene and her world. (Sep., 428 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin