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Chambers of Death    by Priscilla Royal Amazon.com order for
Chambers of Death
by Priscilla Royal
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Chambers of Death, Priscilla Royal's sixth 13th Century mystery featuring Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas, takes the leading characters on a journey in vile weather. When one of their entourage falls seriously ill, they seek succor at a country castle. After they are taken in and cared for, their young novice's health improves. However, they seem to have landed in a castle at war with itself.

Factions in this Lincolnshire manor, home of the Earl of Steward and his family, make for an uncomfortable stay. And what a family! The two sons don't see eye to eye, the Earl's daughter-in-law, an unfaithful new wife, refuses to honor her marriage vows and couple with her husband. Seems like the whole menagerie can't get their minds off either swyving or their prayers.

Eleanor and Thomas are unwillingly caught up in the goings-on though they have cares of their own to sort out. Thomas battles with what he feels might be homosexuality, although he is devoted to Prioress Eleanor in an unseemly manner according to the teachings of the church. Eleanor herself fights the demons of love for Thomas and chides herself constantly for her feelings toward him.

There is a murder a stable hand who, according to Eleanor, was having an affair with the Earl's new wife. Not news to the household. Eleanor determines to outsmart the sheriff whom she feels behaved disrespectfully towards her and who grasped the first person he could for the murder. Rather a peasant be guilty than a high-ranking person. Arresting a member of the nobility would not help his career plans.

Chambers of Death is a good read although I have to admit I got a little tired of everyone so caught up in avoiding the Devil's voice. Maybe that was a prevailing theme so long ago, but it pervaded the story. With that said, I enjoyed the book. I have long felt comfortable with Eleanor and admire her strength of character. Also her modesty which does not allow her to forget her purpose in life. I do look forward to book number seven.

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