cover image Fortune Like the Moon

Fortune Like the Moon

Alys Clare. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26162-7

The brutal murder of a young nun threatens the peace of the kingdom in this promising first novel by an author who might just be the next Ellis Peters. Richard Plantagenet, at his mother's behest, has released prisoners to signal the start of his enlightened reign in 1189. Fearful the people will rally against him, Richard dispatches knight Josse d'Acquin to Hawkenlye Abbey, headed by the incomparable Abbess Helewise, to make sure a freed felon didn't commit the crime. The abbess tells Josse that the slain novice, Gunnora, while outwardly devout, didn't have the right attitude for convent life. In fact, her only friend was newcomer Elvera, with whom she gossiped and laughed. Delving into Gunnora's past, Josse discovers that she was the older daughter of a dying lord who wanted her to marry a neighbor in order to join their lands. Rather than do so, she entered the convent while her younger sister married the man. But the sister has since died, leaving in question who will inherit the combined estate. Through a jeweled cross left at the scene of the murder, Josse is able to determine that Gunnora was Elvera's cousin. Before he can ask Elvera in detail about her relative's death, however, she drowns. Clare tells a chilling tale of inheritance and love while highlighting the analytic skills of both widowed Helewise and former warrior Josse, whose charming relationship will leave readers for more. (May)