A quick look (not necessarily exhaustive or complete) through the list of those who have read this book on Goodreads.com shows that I may be the only person of male gender to have read this book. Hmmm, Oh well, I enjoyed it anyway. It's a murder mystery, historical novel (12th Century France), romance and thriller all rolled into one. However, the medieval setting gives the book a mood and tone that will never be found in a modern mystery-romance-thriller novel. It helps for the reader to be familiar with the story of Abélard and Héloïse before reading this book. Otherwise, you'll miss the significance of some things in the book.
One twist to this story I found noteworthy; The body of the murdered victim literally falls down on top of the story's heroine while she's walking across a courtyard at night. Talk about a mystery being thrust upon you! She had no choice but to become a 12th Century sleuth and try to solve the mystery. She has several more narrow escapes before the story finally reaches a conclusion. I think the ending will not be anticipated by most readers.
This book is first in a series of ten books in the Catherine LeVendeur series written by Sharan Newman. I had previously read the sixth book in the series, and I decided I needed to read the first one to get a better understanding of the characters. I'm not sure I'll have time to read all the books in the series anytime soon. A complete list of the books in this series is listed at the end of this review.
I noticed that the author has written an errata that acknoledges and explains some historical inaccuracies in the book. (Note, the website where the errata used to be located is no longer active.)
Only a well trained scholar of medieval history would care about the level of detail that she explains there. The story is fictional, but what we're talking about here are details contained in the story that don't fit into 12th Century life. No movie producer has ever worried about this sort of problem.
Speaking of historical details, this book has details that the most creative writer of fiction would never dream up. Apparently dried moss was used then (at least by some) for toilet paper. Who would have known such a thing. I can just image the author with this tidbit of historical trivia trying to find a place in the story to mention it.
Here's my favorite quote from the book:"Catherine Le Vendeur," he asked sententiously, "have you known this man carnally?"
"No father," Catherine answered. "But, with your kind permission, I would very much like to."
Now that is the level of sexual explicitness that I can feel comfortable with.
List of books in the Catherine LeVendeur series:
1. Death Comes As Epiphany
2. The Devil's Door
3. The Wandering Arm
4. Strong As Death
5. Cursed in the Blood
6. The Difficult Saint
7. To Wear The White Cloak
8. Heresy: A Catherine LeVendeur Mystery
9. The Outcast Dove
10. The Witch in the Well