Set in early 14th-century France, Lady Agnes Mystery is a richly detailed story both in its historical nature and in its characterization. Lady Agnes has a daughter, Mathilde, and a stepson, Clement. She is titled but not wealthy and has a half-brother, Eudes, of questionable morals and a libidinous appetite. When her husband dies, Lady Agnes fears her half-brother will stake claims to her manor and lands. Things are further complicated when a corpse is found on her property with the letter “A” scratch in the ground next to it, then another. All evidence points to Agnes as the murderer. Soon she finds herself amidst the French Inquisition. During her trial, she discovers there is a prophecy that involves her. She is the principle player in the power struggle over the fight between the French Crown and the Church. As her enemies try to eliminate her, Agnes is determined to survive the Inquisition at all cost and fulfill the destiny she was called to.
Agnes is a strong, determined young woman who faces many trials during the inquisition. These trails serve to strengthen her character and her resolve. Using her keen intellect, she outwits her enemies and infuriates her inquisitors. (Gotta love a woman who can do this!) She will not capitulate. She will not cower as it expected of women in this century. She fights back! (You go girl!)
This book has three appendices one of which is pages of notes referring to references in the story. Though the appendices were helpful to shed further understanding of the time period and practices, it did slow the pace down for me. Eventually, I abandoned using the added notes and just read the story. This did not affect my understanding of the story, but I found myself wishing the author had simplified the text by inserting the definitions tactfully in the writing or perhaps by using a more modern term.
This story is not for the light-hearted as it has many dark passages and plenty of torture. Lady Agnes offers readers much to ruminate over with it many twists and turns, tensions and nail-biting scenes. I did find the story started off rather slowly but by halfway the pace had quickened sufficiently to keep me through to the end. But don’t expect a neat and tidy ending to this mystery. The novel “ends” on a cliff-hanger thereby luring the reader to pick up the second novel in the series. Therefore, HFA reader, if you want a richly detailed story, immersed in intrigue, conflict, and the dark side of human nature, then Lady Agnes Mystery Volume 1 will be a rewarding read.
Andrea Japp is one of the grandes dames of French crime writing with over twenty novels published. She is a forensic scientist by profession and weaves this knowledge into her books, giving them particular authenticity.
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