If you are looking for a representative example of the historical murder mystery genre, well you might want to keep looking. You know, the book where someone is killed in the first chapter, the clues are gathered, the tension (and possibly the body count) rises until the murderer is caught in the last or second to last chapter, after which the detective explains the mystery, and then some secondary characters get to do something happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I quite like that book too, but if that is what you are looking for you are going to be frustrated by this one. The murderer is going to get revealed way too early, and there are going to be all these minor characters who wont stay in the background, the detective is going to make some foolish mistakes and get distracted by curiosity about things that don’t lead to uncovering the perpetrators… its just going to be odd.
So, enough about what this book isn’t. Now for what it is. It is about 40% mystery and 60% really good historical novel about the high middle ages, with a protagonist who struggles with how to be an educated woman outside of a nunnery (yes they did exist) and doesn’t always get it right. Personally I love it. I think this series is just getting better and better.
Also it contains paragraphs like this one, which I find truly wonderful; Time resumed. There was warmth and the smell of wildflowers and above, a sky as blue as sailors’ trousers, the hum of bees, and –oh God how strange – the sound of plainsong coming from the ruins of a church where, unknowing, impervious holy men still celebrated the third hour of daylight, allowing the six note hexagons of their song to bring order back to a universe in which, for her, there had been chaos.
Nicely done Ms. Franklin, thank you for some really pleasurable hours of reading.