Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the 15th century, as warring factions take sides on who should be the rightful king - Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent-minded 20-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence in a male-dominated society, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guesthouse and sets up a business.
The sixth medieval whodunnit to feature Owen Archer, one-eyed former soldier and occasional sleuth, opens as he accompanies a pilgrimage to Wales, country of his birth. His task is to recruit archers to send to France, but, with his companion Geoffrey Chaucer, he must also investigate the threat of an uprising against the English led by a charismatic Welshman. As he arrives, a young man is rescued, injured, from Whitesands Beach outside St. David's, by the poet Dafydd ap Gwylim, and given refuge.
It is the year of our Lord 1363. And in the cathedral city of York people are dying in mysterious circumstances. But there seems to be a common thread - the herbal remedies dispensed by Nicholas Wilton, Master Apothecary. The first victim is an anonymous pilgrim. But when a highborn nobleman dies after taking the same potion the authorities decide to act. Dispatched to York, in disguise, to unravel the mystery, Owen Archer, former Captain of Archers, apprentices himself to the Apothecary.
When a young nun dies of a fever in the town of Beverley in the summer of 1365, she is buried quickly for fear of the plague. But one year later a woman appears, talking of relic-trading and miracles. She claims to be the dead nun resurrected. Murder follows swiftly in her wake, and the worried Archbishop of York asks Owen Archer to investigate.
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A CALLOUS MURDER. A DEVASTATING SECRET. A CRIME OF PASSION.Bishopthorpe Palace, York. September 1373: John Thoresby, the Archbishop of York, lies dying. One of the most powerful men in the country, his imminent demise has the dominant families of the north vying to influence his succession.Owen Archer, Thoresby’s master of the guards, is one of the few men Thoresby trusts
Late spring, the year of our Lord 1370. Owen Archer, ex-soldier and spy, is preparing to depart Wales, his work for John of Gaunt completed. But his attempts to arrange safe passage home to York are thwarted by a mysterious suicide. In York Lucie Wilton is disheartened by her husband’s long absence and concerned by allegations against her apothecary. Then Brother Michaelo brings upsetting news, forcing her to journey to her father’s manor outside the city.
The year is 1367, and the people of York are suffering. Not only has the harvest failed, but the plague has returned. In the midst of this, scandal threatens St Leonard's Hospital, which is struggling to stay solvent and has suffered thefts. The deaths of several of its aged residents seems timely, for their care has long exceeded the sums they bequeathed. Rumours start to fly that their deaths were no accident.
England 1371. A solemn procession winds out of York Minster, after the funeral of Sir Ranulf Pagnell, patriarch of a powerful Yorkshire family. William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, escorted the knight's remains north after his death in France, but he is shunned by the family. They hold him responsible for failing to negotiate the Sir Ranulf's ransom.
Winter 1372, York. A man has drowned in the River Ouse after a skirmish with boys from St Peter’s School. It soon becomes clear that his death was not an accident – but why would a humble pilot on the river be killed for possessing a young boy’s purse? Suspicion falls on Father Nicholas Ferriby – Vicar of Weston and master of a small grammar school – who has already offended many with his unpopular beliefs. But is he really a murderer?
Margaret Kerr of Perth is living in Edinburgh with her uncle Murdoch during the summer of 1297. She'd come to search for her long-absent husband who is in the service of Robert the Bruce. Margaret herself is still loyal to the deposed King John Balliol. Then terrifying raids and a brutal murder on the Kerr property bring the wrath of the English down on the heads of Margaret and her uncle.
It is the spring of 1297, and young wife Margaret Kerr is desperately afraid.
Scotland, 1297. In the weeks leading up to the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Margaret Kerr takes up residence in Stirling town. She has come to discover why the informer who has been providing Wallace and Murray with details of the English plans has become unreliable. Although fearful that she may have inherited her mother's visionary gift and curse, and estranged from her husband, Roger, she is as determined as ever to play her part in saving Scotland from the hammer of Edward Longshanks.