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Jill Meyer (United States)

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Inspector of the Dead
Inspector of the Dead
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb second novel in the "Opium Eater" series, March 25 2015
A good historical novel can both entertain and teach a reader. Author David Morrell's novel, "Inspector of the Dead" is the second in his "Thomas de Quincey/The Opium Eater" series. The first novel, "Murder as a Fine Art", was published in 2013. Readers of both books will learn a lot about the England in the 1850's. It's advisable to have Wikipedia near-by when reading Morrell's books; they can be learning experiences.

"Inspector of the Dead" follows "Murder as a Fine Art" by about two months. The same main characters from the first book are in the second, supplemented by both fictional and real characters. Thomas de Quincey - that real-life laudanum-saturated writer - along with his daughter, Emily, are still in London, after having solved previous crimes. They're grudgingly "put up" by Lord Palmerston at his house, along with the two Scotland Yard detectives, Ryan and Becker, who had been injured previously. One Sunday in 1855, the four attended services at St James's - the local Mayfair church - and were placed in Lord Palmerston's private pew. They witnessed a terribly bloody murder in the adjacent pew where a woman is found dead, with her throat cut. But Lady Cosgrove's murder is not the only one that day; several people at her home - including her husband - were found grievously murdered.

More murders occur and messages left on the bodies allude to "Young England", a group thought behind some assassination attempts of Queen Victoria in the early 1840's. Is someone trying to assassinate the Queen fifteen years later and what do the cries and pleadings of a young Irish boy trying to find help for his imprisoned mother and his sick father and sister in 1840 have to do with the current murder spree? And this is all against the backdrop of the badly-handled Crimean War and the falling apart of the Liberal government of Lord Aberdeen. In the crisis, Victoria is forced to ask Palmerston - whom she detests - to form a new government, and be on guard for her life.

David Morrell does not write "cozy" mysteries. Death is frequent and is never gentle. Those readers looking for a "pleasant diversion" will be sorely disappointed by "Inspector of the Dead". But readers looking for historical relevancy - in the criminal, political, and personal - and not afraid of a rising body count - will enjoy this book. I don't think its essential to have read "Murder as a Fine Art" first, but I'd suggest you do so. The characters of Thomas de Quincey and Emily are so interesting that having read the first book might be an advantage in reading the second one.

Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist
Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A 25 year mystery..., March 20 2015
Boston author Stephen Kurkjian's, "Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist", is a work of non-fiction without an ending. The "ending" would be a joyous reunion of the paintings stolen in 1990 with the museum from which they were stolen. That doesn't seem likely to happen; it's been 25 years since two thieves dressed as police officers, brazenly walked into the Gardner Museum and walked out with a haul of 13 works of art, including a Vermeer and a couple of Rembrandts. Neither the passage of time, a reward of $5 million with few questions asked, or just the good taste to return the paintings and vase to the museum have resulted in their return. When you visit the museum today, the frames on the walls of the stolen paintings stand as mute testimony of their absence.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has operated under rather odd rules since its establishment in 1903 as the place to display Gardner's rather diverse collection of art. Evidently nothing can be changed within the gallery rooms from the original placement of the art by Mrs Gardner. It's a bit of a mish-mash today with different periods of art displayed rather randomly. The couple of times I've visited, I've had to resist the rather strong urge to move paintings around in an attempt to "classify" the periods. Basically, the museum operates under somewhat strange rules. For many years, security of the millions of dollars of fine art was also rather laxly handled. It costs a lot of money to provide modern security and the Gardner was always short of funds. The result of these security lapses was the robbery on March 18, 1990.

According to Stephen Kurkjian, it seems the answer to the robbery and disappearance of the paintings and vase lies with the Boston crime families. Several criminals - most with the names of "Bobby" or "Robert" - have been touted over the years as either the masterminds or the robbers themselves of the heist. Reasons range from lessening the prison sentences of others by "trading" information to actually making money by selling the art. However, any semi-sophisticated art thief knows how difficult it would be to fence the goods. And, in any case, "the goods" have completely disappeared with nary a trace in the last 25 years.

Twenty five years is a long time in the criminal world. Prison terms and death - either natural or not - have taken a toll on the cast of potential players in the crime. Everyone seems to have an idea but nothing has come to light. At this point, the Gardner would love to have the pictures back, with no messy questions asked. Will that happen? Will Stephen Kurkjian have an ending to his book? And will the FBI begin to work with local law enforcement? Keep your ears open...

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History
17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Empty lives...and empty promises., March 19 2015
I enjoy Andrew Morton's books - always taking the information he doles out with a grain of salt - and this one, "17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-up in History", was no less gossipy than his others. The problem I have with this book is the title.

The lives of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, were, in the end, sad and empty ones. Most biographies of the couple - whether they are written in a positive or negative light - cannot come to any other conclusion. David and Wallis were interesting often in the terms of how they and their actions affected those around them. Whether in their birth families, Wallis's marriages and David's long-time affairs with married women, or their own courtship and marriage, what those two did sent out ripples into the lives of others. That they were basically thoughtless, self-absorbed individuals who made a thoughtless and self-absorbed couple, never seemed to affect their own actions. And that was the crux of the problems.

Okay, what does Andrew Morton claim was the "Biggest Cover-Up in History"? It was the hiding - by the British government and it's allies - of the Windsor's "dalliance" with the Nazis in the 1930's and 1940's. There were reports by government agents on the couple's associations with both the German Nazis and the home-grown ones in Britain during the 1930's and - more seriously - with Axis powers in Spain and Portugal in the early years of WW2. The Duke and Duchess had visited Germany several times, met Hitler, and were close with Joachim von Ribbentrop, German's ambassador to Britain. In fact, the "17 Carnations" in the book's title, allude to von Ribbentrop's - supposed - gifts to Wallis from the days they were - again supposedly - having an affair. There is no proof that Wallis and von Ribbentrop ever had a physical affair so the title of the book loses a bit of its effectiveness.

Andrew Morton also looks at the big, big claim that the Duke of Windsor was "flirting" with Hitler, in the early war years, pretending to go along with the German idea of putting David back on the throne - the one he had abdicated in 1936 - as a "puppet ruler" if the Germans successfully invaded England. That the Duke and Duchess would allow themselves to stay in Spain, rather than go to Lisbon and safety after leaving their French homes, was - supposedly - considered a possibility by both the British government and the Windsors, themselves. This would have been an act of treason, one of more than a few Churchill and his government considered the Windsors of committing, or thinking of committing. I'm not sure anyone quite understood the Duke of Windsor, who remained embittered his whole life after he abdicated for the "woman he loved". He hated his family for not treating Wallis and him in the respectful manner he wished to be treated. Again, neither of them seemed to have any idea of other people's needs. That his abdication had thrust his shy brother into the kingship he clearly didn't want, was obviously not important to David.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor continued their heedless journey into irrelevance, leaving others to pick up the pieces. Some of those pieces were contained in the secret files sought after the war. Were the files found in homes and castles in Germany? Did they exist in the first place. I truthfully couldn't quite tell from Andrew Morton's book what was the truth. We may never know, I suppose. But the one thing Morton does do in his book is tell the sad, empty life of David and Wallis Windsor.

Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel (Jewish Lives)
Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel (Jewish Lives)
Price: CDN$ 15.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Rothko..., March 9 2015
Author Annie Cohen-Solal, in her new biography, "Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel", asks the provocative question, "Why, when during the previous centuries Jews had generally been absent from the visual arts, did the dawn of abstraction coincide with their entrance into the world of art, with Jewish collectors, critics, artists, dealers detecting, supporting, and following the lessons of the first Modernists?" And she answers it in her book by looking at the life, career, and world of Mark Rothko.

Rothko was at the turning point when American artists began to be valued as much as their European counterparts. He was part of a group of painters - Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, among other contemporaries - whose art transcended the past and moved these artists into the mainstream of accepted art. Their art was finally purchased and exhibited at the MoMA - which had the mindset of "European-art-is-best" - in the 1940's and 1950's.

Cohen-Solal examines Mark Rothko - born Marcus Rothkowitz in 1904 in current-day Latvia - in as much of a religious context as that of an artistic. For Rothko was a Jewish artist, and his religious beliefs and practices were important to his art. Mark Rothko emigrated from the Pale of Settlement in 1907 as conditions for the Jewish population became increasingly tenuous. His family settled in Portland, Oregon where his father died a few years later. Rothko was raised as an observant Jew - though curiously his elder brothers and sister were raised somewhat more haphazardly - and he was active as a teenager in the Russian Jewish neighborhood of Portland. He received a scholarship to Yale - that bastion of WASPness - but left after two years. After finding himself in the 1930's as a budding artist, he moved to New York City, and made his way steadily up the art world ladder into acceptance, and eventually some wealth.

But Mark Rothko was a contrarian, too. He accepted a commission to provide art for the new Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building, but pulled out and returned his advance when he visited the restaurant. He disliked the clientele, the menu, the ambiance, and, hell, the WEALTH of the place. Several panels of the art he had made were placed in Houston in the Rothko Chapel, built by the Menil family. His post-war years were his most fruitful but his persona began to change. He separated from his wife and two children in the late 1960's and committed suicide in 1970. His fame and his work have long outlived him.

Annie Cohen-Solal returns, in the end, to the city in Latvia he and his family had left more than 100 years before. His children opened a museum dedicated to Marcus Rothkowitz. He - and his art - had come full circle.

Charles: The Heart of a King
Charles: The Heart of a King
Price: CDN$ 14.86

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography of the Prince of Wales..., Feb. 19 2015
"Charles Philip Arthur George" is the full name of Britain's Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales. Charles is the longest waiting Prince of Wales since his great, great grandfather Edward waited for HIS mother, Queen Victoria, to shuffle off her mortal coil. Victoria was loathe to give her son many governmental responsibilities so Edward largely frittered his life away. However, when he did ascend to the throne on Victoria's death, he ruled wisely for the short period of his reign and proved a "bridge" between Victorian England and modern England. (A superb biography of Edward is Jane Ridley's recent "The Heir Apparent: The Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince")

But the Prince of Wales that journalist Catherine Mayer writes about in her excellent book, "Born to Be King: Prince Charles on Planet Windsor", is the current Prince. Best known, perhaps, as Diana's unloving ex-husband, the father to "the Heir and the Spare", George's grandfather, and Camilla Parker Bowles' tampon, Charles is a man whose identity is often at odds with reality.

Mayer, an American-born, UK-based writer, has gone behind the facade the world views Charles. Son of stiff and controlled parents, Charles has evolved into a caring father to his own two sons. But that emotional availability was not there with his first wife. Both Charles and Diana seemed to know their marriage would not succeed; both were needy emotionally and unable to relate to each other. Charles was as much an intellectual as the Windsor family had produced up til his generation, while Diana was both intuitive and emotional. Bad mixture, but they produced two sons who've grown into fine young men, who seem to have inherited the good qualities of both their parents.

Mayer's book is not a white-wash of the Prince of Wales. She is just as strong in pointing out his failings as she is his strengths. He has many interests - ranging from architecture to the raising of sheep to town development and job creation - but he is often a bit arbitrary in his projects and sometimes tactless in his public utterances. He oversees a wide-ranging group of charities, called the "Prince's Trust" and gives his time freely to those charities. As a man who is often at the center of gossip, he has a very small circle of trusted friends and advisers. And most of them address him as "Sir"; he keeps himself at a bit of a distance even from those he trusts. I assume his great love, Camilla, doesn't have to call him "sir", but who knows...

And Camilla Parker Bowles IS the great love of Charles' life. Their marriage comes out of the infidelity that both engaged in. But perhaps the root of the infidelity comes from the fact that Charles and Camilla should have married 40 years ago. Charles adored Camilla but wasn't allowed to marry her because Camilla had a "past". So he wed the proscribed virginal Diana and both Diana and Charles endured an unhappy marriage. His marriage to Camilla is a more mature one; both get on like the old and good friends they are.

So what does the future bring? As Catherine Mayer points out, if Charles does live to succeed his mother, his reign will probably be short. Despite the inane mutterings in the tabloids here in the United States, Charles MUST succeed his mother; she cannot bypass Charles and "give" the crown to William. The law is a successive one; the next in line is the ruler. So there will be a King Charles III and (probably) a Queen Camilla. Charles is a smart man and I'm sure his reign will be a good bridge between the long reigns of Elizabeth and William.

Lies, First Person
Lies, First Person
by Gail Hareven
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85
40 used & new from CDN$ 11.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Do we forgive evil..., Feb. 15 2015
This review is from: Lies, First Person (Paperback)
Do we forgive evil or do we destroy it? And if we destroy it, are we not also acting evilly? Israeli author Gail Hareven's second novel printed in English, "Lies, First Person", asks those questions and the answers are often difficult to accept. And sometimes difficult to believe.

Elinor and Elisheva Gotthilf were raised in a pension owned by their parents in Jerusalem. Elinor was the younger and definitely the smarter of the two; Elisheva was thought to be "slow". Their parents were flaky as as their daughters' upbringing in the hotel. During their teen years, a cousin of Shaya Gotthilf - Aaron Gotthilf - came to visit and spent a few months at the pension, working on his newest book, "Hitler, First Person", a purported "autobiography" of Adolf Hitler. Considered after its publication in Europe and the United States to be a disgrace - a Jewish man trying to get into Hitler's mind - Aaron Gotthilf was shunned. However, along with writing a novel about Hitler during his stay at the Gotthilf's pension, Aaron was also raping and abusing the older, slower, Gotthilf sister, Elisheva.

When the parents found out about the abuse of their daughter by a trusted relative, the family fell apart. The mother died of heart failure, perhaps as a suicide. The father fled Jerusalem for Italy, leaving the badly emotionally damaged Elisheva in the care of Elinor. After a couple of stays in a local mental hospital, Elisheva was recovered enough to marry an American Christian veterinarian and moving with him to the US and becoming a Christian evangelist. Elinor met and married a lawyer from a solid family and her in-laws became her loving parents. She had two sons with Oded and became a writer of note. But the pain Aaron Gotthilf inflicted on the family never left Elinor's mind. But, how had Elisheva coped with her pain?

The book begins with Aaron Gotthilf making contact with Elinor and Oded thirty years after the molestation. He's coming to speak at a seminar in Jerusalem and would like to meet with Elinor. She also realises that he wants to contact Elisheva, now living in central Illinois. Elinor and Oded travel to the US to see Elisheva and tell her about Aaron Gotthilf popping up again in their lives. Elisheva tells Elinor that she has "forgiven" Aaron for the rape and abuse. It was the "Christian" thing to do. But what does Elinor do?

Aaron Gotthilf is an evil person. Personally he is evil for what he did to a young girl, and on a societal level he is evil for the book he has written. Author Gail Hareven writes the rest of the book using an "unreliable narrator" as the voice. It's not a writing tactic that I particularly like; to me it's sort of taking the easy way out of plot development. "Maybe this happened"...and "maybe it didn't". Hareven says as much in her prologue. However, Gail Hareven's novel is interesting reading and I can recommend it for the reader who wants to know about evil and it's aftermath.

Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
by David Axelrod
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.08
43 used & new from CDN$ 21.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at a "political life"..., Feb. 11 2015
I want to begin my review of David Axelrod's autobiography, "Believer: My 40 Years in Politics" by stating the obvious. His book is political; Axelrod is a life-long Democrat who has worked as a campaign consultant for Democratic candidates since volunteering for John Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960, when he was all of five years old. Axelrod's book is probably not going to sell particularly well to Republicans, which is too bad because David Axelrod is an excellent writer. While he writes as a partisan, the reader who will most appreciate this book is a "political junkie" like me, who just loves reading about politics.

David Axelrod is best known for his work on the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign, but he had been a political consultant in Chicago since the mid-1970's when he went from being a political reporter for the Chicago Tribune to being a consultant for some of those very politicians he had covered. As a Chicagoan, I was interested in that part of the book, because I was very familiar with the politicians and the races he wrote about. But, although he worked from Chicago, his campaign firm was hired by politicians country-wide and his section on the John Edwards campaign of 2004 is very enlightening reading.

In 2002, Axelrod was reintroduced to Barack Obama who was currently a state senator from the South Side of Chicago. He had met him casually a few years earlier and had kept vague track of Obama and his career. But by 2002, Obama was looking to run for the 2004 Illinois Senate race, for the seat that was currently held by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Axelrod and Obama "hit it off" and Axelrod joined the long-shot Senatorial campaign. In 2005, Obama was sworn in as the junior Senator from Illinois, vowing to serve his full term. But Barack Obama, who had "wow'ed 'em" at the 2004 National Democratic convention in Boston with his key-note speech, entered the US Senate as someone to watch. In the next year and a half, Obama, with Axelrod and other key aides, began to think about...running for the presidency in 2008. Most of the rest of the book is the behind-the-scenes look at the Obama campaign and at the man, Barack Obama.

But David Axelrod also writes about his own life and accomplishments while tracking the rise of Barack Obama. His writing is perceptive, and occasionally sharp, but never mean. Making a living as a political consultant is often very difficult, particularly in the personal life. Long hours on the road and in meetings usually strains a marriage and family life. Axelrod observes with honesty about these strains, and is very appreciative of the support shown by his wife, who was handling three children, sometimes on her own. The Axelrod's oldest child, Lauren, suffered from epilepsy from a very early age and Axelrod writes about her illness.

"Believer" is also the story of a "believer". David Axelrod is a believer in the very best of America. His book is not for everyone - which is too bad - because it IS a book which is about partisan politics. I sincerely hope that some Republican "political junkies" do read the book. It's a great read.

Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel
by Matt Zoller Seitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 36.00
39 used & new from CDN$ 29.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wes Anderson "channels" Stefan Zweig..., Feb. 10 2015
Wes Anderson "channels" Stefan Zweig...and Matt Zoller Seitz chronicles the resulting movie.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the author of "The Wes Anderson Collection", a coffee-table book about the previous Wes Anderson films. He returns with a second book, "The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel", which is devoted to the filming, the writing, the scoring; hell...every part about the making of the movie. It's very detailed and a fine book for any Wes Anderson fan.

I am not a rabid "Wes Anderson fan". I've liked several of his movies and not others. I adored "The Royal Tenenbaums" and still wonder if the reason it struck such a chord with me and many others is that it happened to be released in December, 2001. It's melancholy sadness seemed "right" for the time as we coped with the after effects of 9/11. I cry every time I see the movie; maybe it still makes it okay to cry for the other event? I don't know, and that's a subject for another review.

Anyway, it was 2014 when "Budapest" was released. Sort of based on the stories of the exiled Stefan Zweig, Wes Anderson brought us an imaginary look at 1930's Mittel Europa and the great hotels where guests "took the waters" for weeks at a time. A large ensemble cast based around the superb acting by Ralph Feinnes as "M Gustave", the lead concierge at the "Budapest". The story is silly and poignant and thought-provoking, all at the same time. And along with the acting, the sets and the costumes were also special. Anderson's story takes place every where from the grand hotel, to a wealthy old woman's castle house, to a forbidding prison, then, finally, back to the not-so-grand hotel. The technical crew makes everything look right.

How much of the movie is "fact" and how much is "atmosphere"? There are no Nazis in the film; other troops belonging to the "Zig Zag" movement are there, instead. Newspaper headlines speak of the threat of war, but we're not sure exactly where the imaginary country of "Zubrowska" is located, though "the border" seems to be well-manned, making travel and border crossings difficult. This was largely true in the Central European mix of nations in the 1930's.

Matt Zeller Seitz's book is a complete look at the movie and the filmmakers and the man who inspired the movie. There is a lengthy section with selections of Stefan Zweig's writings. (For those who want to read an excellent book about Zweig, look for "The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World" by George Prochnik, published in 2014.) Zeller Seitz interviewed the director, the actors, the technical crews...but most of all, he interviewed Wes Anderson. Anderson, that quirky and meticulous director - is he a genius - is quite candid about all the aspects of the making of the "The Great Budapest Hotel". This is a large and wonderful book and a good "companion" to the movie.

Lincoln's Body: A Cultural History
Lincoln's Body: A Cultural History
Price: CDN$ 17.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at the "Cult of Lincoln", Feb. 7 2015
This year, 2015, is the 150th year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Many books have covered Lincoln's life and his death; Richard Wightman Fox's new book, "Lincoln's Body: A Cultural History", looks at how Lincoln has fared as an historical figure since his death.

Richard Fox, professor of History at the University of Southern California, begins his book with Lincoln's assassination, a well-documented story. But he concentrates both on how Lincoln perceived himself before his death and how others perceived him after. His death on April 15, 1865, unleashed mourning throughout the country. An elaborate program of his body's laying-in-state in Washington, DC, as well as in selected cities on the train trip back to Springfield, Illinois, made the nation a partner in his family's grief. He was finally laid to a somewhat unquiet rest in Springfield.

In the succeeding years, monuments and statues were erected in his honor, books were written, and his legacy was being assessed. Was Abraham Lincoln an emancipator of slaves or the man who faught to hold together the Union? Or both? How would he have governed in those difficult days after the Civil War ended? Would he have welcomed the South back into the Union or would he have imposed harsh penalties? Certainly "his" Reconstruction would have been different than Andrew Johnson's.

Fox's excellent book examines how the regard for Abraham Lincoln has risen and fallen and risen again in the last 150 years. Was he the saint who had lost his one chance at love with Ann Rutledge's early death or was that romantic tripe, made up to soften Lincoln's image after his death. Was he a dreamer or a realist about our country's future. Perhaps the low point of the "Cult of Lincoln" was Gore Vidal's "fictional biography", "Lincoln", published in the mid-1980's, where he tries to "humanize" the president.

Richard Wightman Fox presents a nuanced look at the "Cult of Lincoln". His book is a very readable account of a time in America's history when our national view of a beloved figure was turned into a cultural icon.

Satan's Lullaby: A Medieval Mystery: Written by Priscilla Royal, 2015 Edition, (1st Edition) Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press [Paperback]
Satan's Lullaby: A Medieval Mystery: Written by Priscilla Royal, 2015 Edition, (1st Edition) Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press [Paperback]
by Priscilla Royal
Edition: Paperback
6 used & new from CDN$ 31.36

5.0 out of 5 stars 11th in the series..., Feb. 2 2015
Priscilla Royal's new mystery, "Satan's Lullaby: A Medieval Mystery" is her 11th book in her Medieval Mystery series. I've read all the series books over the years and this latest is an excellent return to Prioress Eleanor, Brother Thomas, and the others - both religious and secular - at Tyndal Priory in Norfolk. Eleanor is the leader of the Priory, which supports both male and female religious. It is one of the few houses where a woman is the leader of the order.

"Satan's Lullaby" does not really have much of a plot. The order is being "visited" by Father Etienne Davoir, who is the brother of Abbess Isabeau, of the Fondevraud Abbey in France, which is the "mother" house of Tyndal Priory. He's come with a some aides to check out the finances and structural strength of the Priory. One of his clerks - with whom Father Etienne has a close relationship - is found dead during the visit. Etienne suspects the young man has been poisoned and points out Sister Anne, the chapter's sub-infirmarian who is a whiz with natural medicines, as the probable killer. Anne is tossed into confinement, not allowed to practice her healing ways. There are also some odd characters skulking around the grounds and, as usual, some people are not who they seem to be.

Father Etienne is a blustering bully, Prioress Eleanor is diplomatic, Crowner Ralf is investigative, and Brother Thomas is a hunk. Other reoccurring characters are included and as with any good series, the reader is brought up-to-date with the lives of these characters. The story is brought to an end in somewhat desultory fashion - remember, you're probably not reading it for the plot. But Priscilla Royal is a whiz at creating both interesting characters and interesting settings. Her writing is often moody when describing the physical world of Norfolk, where the winters are bleak and the summers not much better.

A well-written historical novel can teach as well as entertain. Novels, while fiction, can stir up in a reader an interest in the subject or era and prompt further reading. Royal has an afterword where she writes about some of the interests she had before writing "Satan's Lullaby" and how she included them in the story. If you're a fan of the series, or just have an interest in 13th century England, you'll enjoy this 11th book.

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