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    St. Martin's Minotaur, May 2000

    To celebrate the coronation of her son, Richard I (the Lion Hearted), Queen Isobel sets all of the prisoners in England free. When the apparently murdered, robbed and raped body of a nun is found shortly afterwards, Isobel’s gesture seems to have backfired. Richard sends Sir Josse d’Acquin to discover the truth and, hopefully, to prove that Isobel’s pardon had nothing to do with the death.

    Josse, working with Abbess Helewise, discovers a number of anomalies. Gunnora, the victim, was left with her habit pulled up to her waist and blood on her thighs, yet the habit was neatly folded. The wound on her neck was perfectly shaped and the marks on her arms seem to imply more than one killer. Finally, Gunnora might have been about to come into an inheritance. The case against a common criminal grows, but who would actually have dealt this death blow? Josse resolves to continue working until he discovers the true killer.

    Josse and Helewise make a fine medieval detective pair. Josse’s powers of observation and his energy match well with Helewise’s insights into people. Author Alys Clare creates a realistic England while preserving at least some of the medieval mystique. Her few digressions into historical narrative are interesting and, if not exactly essential to the mystery, at least useful in setting the historical context.

    FORTUNE LIKE THE MOON is a superior historical mystery. While I would have liked to see at least one more plot twist and would have enjoyed seeing Helewise’s crucial discovery being made ‘on screen,’ I read the novel in a single sitting, fascinated both by Clare’s history and by the characters of Josse and Helewise. (See more reviews of novels by Alys Clare).

    Three Stars

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