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Clark, Cassandra - 'The Red Velvet Turnshoe'
Paperback: 400 pages (Oct. 2009) Publisher: John Murray ISBN: 0719522919

Hildegard is back! In the second of this historical series, it is 1383 and England is in a state of political unrest, reeling from the plague and civil war. Whilst opposing political factions fight over the English Crown and who is to wear it, Hildegard is sent on a quest by the Abbess of Meaux for the Archbiship of York. Her mission is to travel to Italy and bring back the Cross of Constantine, a wooden cross Constantine had carried into battle at the Milvian Bridge near Rome. This is no light undertaking as travel is dangerous with roads beset by bandits and thieves, as well as an old adversary who is keen to get revenge.

Hildegard is accompanied on her adventure by a Knight, hired by a mysterious supporter, and a young musician who is suspected of murder. Death follows her from the beginning of the journey and from England to Italy and back and she unravels a plot which rewrites the history books.

This is a well written historical tale, with a depth of detail which allows the reader to immerse themselves in the fourteenth century and the medieval trappings of the time. Poverty and deprivation, wealth and privilege all form the backdrop to this exciting story. Sister Hildegard is a welcome addition to the ranks of the detective - independent, quite tough and not a meek character by any means - she pursues her quest for the Cross of Constantine and a murderer at the same time with equal tenacity.

History is recreated by Cassandra Clark in all the small details which she bothers to include in her book, sights in the port in which wool is loaded, the sounds of the bells calling monks to prayer. This book skilfully weaves a complex plot with the rich period background and brings the whole story to life with vivid descriptions and a cast of roguish characters. As with the first book in this series, HANGMAN BLIND, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed THE RED VELVET TURNSHOE and I will look out for further adventures of Sister Hildegard. Highly recommended.

Read another review of THE RED VELVET TURNSHOE.

Amanda Brown, England
January 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 17/01/2010 14:34