|Pages/Publication Date:||339 / 2015|
In this fourth entry in Cassandra Clark's superbly evocative historical mystery series, set in 14th-century Yorkshire, Hildegard has returned to the priory after more than a year from her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, unsure whether she will rejoin her Cistercian order. The Prioress suggests that a visit to Handale Priory might help provide Hildegard some clarity. Run as a house of correction for sinning nuns by the ambiguous Abbess Basilda and her close group of hard-faced acolytes, Handale lies to the north, in the middle of a vast wood. Exploring the grounds, Hildegard discovers the corpse of a young man in the morgue, bearing deep gashes from neck to groin. His wounds appear to be the ravages of gigantic claws—could he truly have been killed by a dragon, as Hildegard has been told? Disbelieving the tale, she goes for a walk in the woods and discovers a secret tower, locked and barred, with armed men on guard. What is so valuable that it needs such protection? Has it anything to do with the mystery of the young man's death? And why have assassins been pursuing the King's courier across the savage moor land, only to murder him at a lonely wayside tavern? Hildegard risks every danger to seek out the truth.
"Outstanding.... Clark pulls everything together neatly in a moody, atmospheric whodunit while sustaining a high level of tension throughout."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Cassandra Clark creates a mystifying setting filled with medieval crimes and entangled politics, along with a string of macabre transgressions, perfectly matching the detailed periodic aspects of the story's surroundings: There are cold, dark deeds happening deep within the secluded and shadowy woods of Handale in winter."—San Francisco Book Review