Ashes of the Elements
St. Martin's Press, April, 2001.
Hardcover, 244 pages.
In 12th century England, just outside the Hawkenlye Abbey lies the dark and mysterious Wealden Forest. One evening, a poacher comes to an untimely demise at the end of an expertly thrown spear with a distinctive flint point. Abbess Helewise informs the somewhat bumbling and narrow-minded local sheriff, who immediately blames the murder on the "Wild People," a band of travelers who come to the forest every June. Abbess Helewise thinks that there is more to the murder than meets the eye, and with her faithful friend, French knight Sir Josse d'Acquin, she sets out to investigate. Meanwhile, the Abbess is very concerned about the behavior of two young novices, and Sir Josse finds some strange evidence in the forest. Could the novices' odd behavior be linked to the strange doings in Wealdon Forest ?
Helewise and Josse are an engaging, if somewhat oddly-matched, investigating team. Helewise much admires her patroness, the strong-willed and intelligent Queen Elanor, and Josse seems able to rise above the narrow minded views of the roles of women so prevalent in medieval England, where an Abbey was one of the few places where women held real authority. Helewise is a strong and interesting character, and her approach to life in a man's world is thoroughly engaging. With an underlying, subtle humor and a vivid portrait of life in the 12th century, Ashes of the Elements will delight historical mystery lovers.
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This review was published in the July, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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