Well, I certainly seem to have found myself steeped in audio book murder mysteries and ones located in religious locations! First The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, in the isolated monastery and now, Sanctity of Hate as set on Priory grounds, in medieval England. The Sanctity of Hate was provided to us by Audiobook Jukebox and Blackstone Audio for the Solid Gold Reviewers program.
I found out too, that I’m actually quite late to these Medieval Mystery series by Priscilla Royal, as The Sanctity of Hate is the 9th in the series?! But alas, all was not lost for me, with just a wee bit of reading descriptions from the past books, I found that I wasn’t struggling to keep up with the Priory goings-ons. A few words I also “googled” so that I could fully understand what was what: A Crowner is the cororner, or from the Office of the Coroner. A Priory – can be run by the Prior or as is the case here in Sanctity of Hate and in all of Royal’s series, a Prioress.
And, my, my, my, the Priory at Tyndal does seem to receive its fair share of murders to solve doesn’t it? This time around a man’s body has been discovered on Priory grounds, floating in the water, with his neck slit. He’s the man that had been charged with guarding a Jewish family seeking refuge on their way to Norfolk. Jacob ben Asser’s wife is heavy with child and they must remain in Tyndal until the birth. Immediately, all fingers point, to Jacob as it could only be the Jews that wish to poison the Priory ground. See, this medieval mystery is covering a time period in medieval England where King Edward I enforced sequestering of Jews under Edward the First’s Statute of The Jewry. Therefore, much of this story represents the time period of great religious intolerance to the Jews by the Christians. They are consistently referred to as “the despised people”.
But it is all up to Prioress Eleanor, Crowner Ralf and Brother Thomas to quell the mounting anger of the villagers intent on spilling the blood of the Jews so they may uncover the real killer of the village guard. While the man may not be truly cared for in Tyndale, it is the suspected ben Asser that causes the village to assemble in angry mobs. However, many of the main suspects turn up dead as well!
All throughout this story, Royal quite deftly writes of the religious intolerance and differences between the two religions. She writes with an assured hand on the emotions, ignorance and time period. She relayed this subject never like the preaching/teaching nature one might experience when watching a Law & Order episode. So, instead of the historical or factual material being talked at you very woodenly by the actors, Ms. Royal has woven it throughout the conversational exchanges in a very graceful manner.
By the end of this story I became quite attached to all the Priory characters, especially following the storyline of Gytha, (the Prioress’ maid) and Crowner Ralf’s affection for one another. Certainly I don’t see this as being my last medieval mystery. I will definitely go back and read the past in this series as Prioress Eleanor, Brother Thomas and Crowner Ralf have quite endeared themselves to me.
Now, regarding the audio narration, I at first thought the narrator was “Isobel Crawley” from Downton Abbey and was overjoyed!! Alas, this is not really the case, the narrator is not Penelope Wilton, :-( but Wanda McCaddon. Nevertheless, she is quite accomplished and did a wonderful job. I believe she encapsulated the tone of the medieval times and the characters very well. Really, I believe it’s because of her narration that the characters became so endearing and the book a pleasure to listen to during the daily commute. The subject matter can be quite intense at times, but Priscilla Royal’s fine writing and Wanda McCaddon’s narration made it more comfortable and palatable.
A very good read and thank you again to Audiobook Jukebox and Blackstone Audio for the privilege of listening to it.