The Hour of the Fox

Cassandra Clark. Severn, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8958-4

Friar Rodric Chandler, the hero of this fresh series launch set in 1399 England from Clark (the Hildegard of Meaux mysteries), inspires fear in those who know of him throughout London, because he’s an effective spy for a ruthless political faction. No stranger to violence and lust, he’s conflicted about his spying, his religious calling, and his place among the powerful in the kingdom. When Chandler investigates the murder of a young novice found with her throat slit in the Thames, he suspects a cover-up, one that could reach into some scary places. Meanwhile, Richard II has gone to Ireland, and rumors bedevil London that Henry of Bolingbroke, the king’s cousin, is poised to invade from his place of foreign exile and try to take the English throne. The murder plot loses some of its urgency amid the clash-of-dynasties backdrop, and shifting points of view combined with some short chapters can make for choppy reading. But whenever the focus is on Chandler, the story grips. Readers will want to see more of this highly original protagonist. (June)
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