When Dame Frevisse is called on to escort a young student and her mother from St. Frideswide's nunnery in Oxfordshire to their home because of a family emergency, the medieval nun realizes that she has stepped into darkness.

That emergency is the murder of Sir Ralph, a knight who ruled his family and his villagers with an iron hand. When his body is discovered in the field during a hunt, very little effort is made to find the culprit. No one loved him, except possibly his hunting hounds, the only creatures he treated with kindness.

Dame Frevisse ends up in the midst of this unhappy family when further catastrophe descends upon them. Lady Anneys, the matriarch, tries by strength of will to hold the family together, in spite of the deep sadness of her life.

The 13th installment of this long- running series gives readers a wonderful picture of the life of the common person in medieval England, while showing the universality of people throughout the ages. People, places and attitudes are all woven together in a colorful tapestry. The pacing of the book is gentle and slow at first, but builds to a crescendo of pain and tragedy at the end. (Jan., 336 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Lorraine Gelly