The serenity of Hawkenlye Abbey has been disturbed by the arrival of a new nun and her two young sisters. Recently orphaned, Alba has had to leave her convent at Ely to take her grieving sister far away from the scene of their sorrow. However Abbess Helewise cannot reconcile the charity and selflessness of this gesture with what she sees and hears of Alba; Sister Alba is everyone agrees, a mean-spirited and turbulent presence.
The Abbess's anxieties grow when her old friend Josse d'Acquin is brought to Hawkenlye, half-dead from blood poisoning. Then a body is discovered and one of the sisters goes missing. In order to discover what reall lies behind Alba's flight to Hawkenlye, Helewise sets off to visit the Fens. She uncovers not only a clever network of lies, but also something more horrific...
I have been a fan of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series forever it seems and when I saw this on the cozy mystery list my favorite homebased bookseller, Our Lady of the Books Pamala, I wanted to try this new to me series.
Abbess Helewise is wise, kind, takes wonderful care of the nuns and people in her charge. I'm not sure of her history yet, but it seems as though she was married at one point and has a history with Josse d'Acquin, the knight brought to Hawkenlye. The abbey is known for its care of the sick and injured and Josse is in good hands with the nuns.
Then the three orphaned sisters arrive on the doorstep of Hawkenlye and the whole abbey is in an uproar. The younger sisters, Berthe and Meriel, are docile and sweet. The eldest, Alba, is completely the opposite with a disruptive arrogant nature. She goes so far as to attack Helewise and getting put in solitary confinement until Helewise can get to the bottom of the fractured story the sisters tell.
Murder and characters who aren't all who they appear..perfect mystery fodder. Set it in medieval times in an abbey, have some herblore, travels across England, forest dwellers, disturbed minds, and Knights Templar...it's a ye olde humdinger!
It will definitely not be my last foray into the world of Abbess Helewise. There are 12 books in the series, this is number 4, and I am going to do my best to find and read each one.