Cover Image: Murder in the Cloister

Murder in the Cloister

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I loved the previous book but this one didn't keep my attention and the story fell flat.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
Wonderful historical mystery which draws the reader in and keeps their attention until the very end of the story.
Was this review helpful?
I love a good historical mystery with a central character that is someone I know from history, but I've never really considered as an individual. Murder in the Cloister features just such a "detective": Christine de Pizan, 14th Century feminist, scribe, and writer. Under the cover of copying a valuable book for the Prioress, Christine is sent to the Priory of Poissy. Her real responsibility is uncovering the events and people behind the death of a novice—and Christine needs to act quickly as the priory faces threats from those who object to women directing their own lives, even when they are cloistered.

The mystery is solid, though the revelation when it comes isn't completely unexpected. Readers can see the finger of guilt pointing in a particular direction, but don't know exactly what has transpired to point it that way. What makes this mystery successful isn't that plot line so much as its cast of characters, strong, intelligent women and men with very different views of how the world should be ordered, but who nonetheless must work together to arrive at justice for the victim.

This is the first book in this series I've read, though it is the fourth volume, and I had no trouble following the plot line or grasping the relationships among the characters. I want to go back and read the earlier volumes not to clarify any back-story specifics, but just because I like those characters as depicted by Tania Bayard and want to spend more time with them. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
1399: Superstition, madness and politics.

Murder and more in an ancient French priory near Paris. A Religious House supported by the King of France.
An interesting medieval mystery read in terms of the history of the times and the widespread beliefs about sorcery.
Christine de Pizan is tasked by King Charles VI, upon the request of the Dominican Prioress, to journey to the Royal Priory of Saint-Louis at Poissy, ostensibly to to copy an important manuscript and visit her daughter who has taken orders there. Christine knows there's more to the matter. The Priory has no need of her expertise, having plenty in house. She will be accompanied by Brother Michel from the Abbey of Saint-Denis and Henri de Picart. 
Christine is warned by a member of Queen Isabeau's retinue that, ‘Something is wrong at Poissy, and they’re willing to do what the prioress asks because they’re concerned for their daughter.’ Politics and power play a part in Kingdoms and religious communities.
The Illuminated manuscripts, the nuns singing constantly for France and King Charles the Sixth, who is suffering from melancholia and madness form part of the background. The priory' mission, their 'chief function is to sing the divine office perpetually, to offer prayers to God for the royal family, and for all of France.'
The story flowed easily, the untimely death of a nun becoming an itch in Christine's mind. The characters are well rounded, although the antipathy between Henri and Christina seems to have a long history. Maybe to do with Henri's seeming disparagement about women’s abilities. (I’m not privy to what's gone before). Or does Henri challenge Christine to inflame her? His last efforts makes me think he’s more kindly inclined towards her than she thinks.
Introductions to each chapter with excerpts from various commentaries of the time including Christine's L’advision and Hildegard of Bingen are a fascinating way to illuminate the next episode of the tale.
I really enjoyed descriptions of the nuns singing, the feeling of various listeners being carried away to another dimension by their voices was well portrayed.
This is my first Christine de Pizan Mystery and I'm fascinated to find out about her life before now.

A Severn House (Canongate Books) ARC via NetGalley 
Please note: Quotes taken from an advanced reading copy maybe subject to change
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
Was this review helpful?
It is the end of the fourteenth century. France is ruled by a mad king. No one is safe in a land where religion and sorcery are still powerful weapons to use. A young nun is killed but this must not become public knowledge 
Tania Bayard writes engaging characters against a well drawn period background. A perfect evocation of time and place.
Was this review helpful?
The year is 1399 in Paris and the royal family is concerned about the Priory in Poissy. Something has happened behind the cloistered walls and only one person who is extremely loyal to the king and queen can figure out what is amiss, Christine de Pizan the famous medieval writer. Christine goes to Poissy to act as a copyist for the prioress, but she soon finds herself in the middle of a sinister murder case. A nun has been found dead and it is up to Christine and her allies, plus one frenemy, to figure out who killed the nun while protecting the king’s youngest daughter who calls the priory home. Can Christine figure out who murdered the young nun and make it out of the priory alive? This is the premise of Tania Bayard’s latest installment of her Christine de Pizan murder mystery series, “Murder in the Cloister”. 

I would like to thank Net Galley and Severn House Publishers for sending me a copy of this novel. When I was browsing, the cover is what drew my attention. I had not heard of this series or of Tania Bayard before reading this novel. I did not know that this book was part of a series until I started reading it. I have heard about Christine de Pizan and her writing legacy, but I sadly knew nothing about her family life and her connection to King Charles V, King Charles VI, and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, which would have been useful information to know before reading. 

We begin this novel with Christine surrounded by her family and her mother. We find out that Christine is a single mother now as her husband has recently passed away and she is trying to earn money through her writing. As the daughter of Thomas de Pizan, the famous astrologer to King Charles V, she has earned the trust of the royal family. King Charles VI, who is suffering from some sort of mental malady, and his wife Queen Isabeau of Bavaria have asked Christine to go to the Priory in Poissy to copy a manuscript for the prioress and to visit her daughter Marie. She is allowed to bring her son Thomas, but the queen insists on Henri le Picart, a man who Christine despises, to come along and protect her. I found Henri’s character annoying with how he belittles women and their abilities, but he did have some redeeming qualities as the story went along.  

I found the actual murder investigation a bit slow for my taste. Bayard tends to focus on the subplot of sorcery a bit too long. I wanted an action-packed adventure full of danger and intrigue, like a novel by CJ Sansom or Toni Mount, but the action fell flat for me. I think Bayard was able to describe the priory and the inner workings very well and the characters were all well written and dynamic. As someone who jumped into this series rather late, it took me a while to figure out the relationship between the characters and what happened in previous cases, which is imperative in solving this particular case. 

Overall, I found this medieval murder mystery rather enjoyable. I have not read many medieval novels set in France and I have not read anything about Christine de Pizan, so it was different yet intriguing at the same time. If you want to read this series, I would suggest starting at the very beginning. If you are however familiar with the life of Christine de Pizan and this series, I think you will find, “Murder in the Cloister” by Tania Bayard rather enjoyable and a great medieval escape from reality.
Was this review helpful?
Murder in the Cloister is the first Tania Bayard novel I've read and overall, I was delighted with it.

Overall. Some things I loved, some a bit less, so I hesitated as to whether this is a 4-star or a 3-star read.

What I loved about Murder in the Cloister
1.	The setting in medieval France, 1399, and the descriptions of Paris and Poissy Collegiate Church and its convent. I felt very immersed in the landscapes and locations depicted.
2.	The feminist slant and the fact that the main character is based on a woman who really existed; a woman who wrote for a living and was employed by King Charles VI. I loved learning about Christine de Pizan, both imaginatively through the novel and because I was inspired to google more information about her.
3.	The medieval convent setting. I love stories set in convents in the distant past, at a time when women had so little power in business and public life, with the notable exception of women running and living in convents. Convents were busy, complex enterprises employing entire communities. The descriptions of the nuns' choir also made me want to listen to contemporary music. I felt I could almost hear their voices, ethereal and beautiful.
4.	The characters, especially the women. This book really celebrates women. Yay! The different characters were distinctively drawn. I enjoyed reading about Christine, Marion, the Prioress, Juliana. By contrast, the men failed to impress. However, I think there's more to Henri, in particular, that I might have missed because of not having read the previous novels in the series.

What I liked less
The murder mystery and the theme of sorcery. As a murder mystery, Murder in the Cloister didn't quite do it for me. I was intrigued, but the reveal was a bit rushed and unsatisfying. The theme of sorcery felt a bit thrown in because that's what's expected in this period, and to satisfy some plot details, but it felt tagged on rather than particularly well integrated into the story.

Despite my misgivings, the aspects I enjoyed were enough to leave me wanting more. This was one of those books where the murder is secondary to the setting, rather than the reverse, and that's OK with me. It's a historical mystery, with emphasis on the historical rather than the mystery. Fine. There are plenty of other books out there that are better mysteries, but not many that bring this period of history, in France, alive in the way this book does. So on balance, I'll go for 4 stars. And I definitely want to read more of Bayard's novels.
Was this review helpful?
This is book four in the Christine de Pizan series by Tania Bayard and the first book I've read in this series. I am a fan of historical mysteries and was interested in reading this story set in France in 1399 which features a true historical person in a fictionalized mystery. The world of the cloister can represent so much atmospheric drama that novels set within these types of communities usually work well with murder and other crimes wending their way through dark corridors and misty gardens. This story lives up to that type of setting.

Christine de Pizan has connections to the court through her father and husband who were both in service to their king and each died during their service. King Charles VI and Queen Isabeau have had a letter from the Prioress at the Royal Priory of Saint-Louis at Poissy asking for Christine to come to the Priory and copy a manuscript. Since there are many scribes at the Priory Christine knows something more is going to be asked of her.

The life of the nuns within the priory is well depicted and the crimes which had been committed were interesting to try to solve along with Christine and the others helping her. The story did move slowly which became somewhat of a problem when it came to me continuing on with reading. I finished this story but don't expect to be continuing on with this series. Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate Books Severn House Publishing for an e-galley of this novel.
Was this review helpful?
Paris, late 14th century. Christine de Pizan spent several years of her childhood in the court of King Charles V. Her father was the king’s physician at the time, and the crown prince was her playmate. Now the old king is gone, and Charles VI is suffering from mental illness. Queen Isabeau asks Christine to visit the Royal Priory at Saint-Louis at Poissy, where the Royal Princess and Christine’s daughter Marie are living. A novice nun has been murdered, and it appears to be an inside job. The royal parents are concerned for their daughter’s safety, and they want Christine to find the killer before they strike again.
               To explain her presence at the priory, the prioress tells the sisters that Christine, a well-known scribe, is coming to translate a rare manuscript. Since there are already several talented scribes in residence, some suspect that something more might be going on. One person in particular knows the true purpose of her visit, and is determined to stop her from fulfilling her task.  
		The late thirteenth-early fourteenth centuries was a time of superstition, magic, and sorcery. Christine de Pizan, who was a real historical figure, was a woman ahead of her time, seeing the hand of man in most mysteries. She is known for her poetry, revolutionary works on women, and a biography of King Charles V. Murder in the Cloister is a seamless blend of history and fictional mystery. Recommended for fans of historical mystery and medieval life.
Was this review helpful?
This is the fourth in the Christine de Pizan mystery series, and as with other review, it is suggested to start this series at the beginning and read in order to ensure continuity. In this outing Christine is travelling to the Prior of Poissy, ostensibly to see her daughter and to copy manuscripts, but also to investigate the murder of one of the nuns.

These mysteries are full of historical detail, including Christine's life as a single mother, raising her family whilst trying to earn a living, which she manages to do thanks to royal patronage.

I really enjoy the series of mysteries as they make a nice change from the usual English-centric historical fiction that has dominated the market for some time. For those who love a bit of French history mixed with a tinge of crime, sorcery, a notable female protagonist.
Was this review helpful?
I must confess that I used to live close to Poissy and see its fabulous "collegiale" from the train going to Paris every day so being familiar with the area and the meandering Seine River West of Paris has attracted me to Tania Bayard delightful whodunit set in 1399 France. With a cast of perfectly drawn characters and full of well researched historical details, the plot is very tense & the religious atmosphere will beguile all your senses. By the end of the novel I had to listen to 15th century church music. Stylishly written, this delightful book is definitely a winner.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Severn house for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel prior to its release date
Was this review helpful?
This was definitely not my type of book. I appreciate  getting the ARC as always, but it lacked coherence for me. If I had read others in the series it may have been better.
Was this review helpful?
A nice mystery involving class, gender, and revenge, set in medieval France and featuring writer Christine de Pizan. This will appeal to readers of historical mysteries and the medieval period, and those who enjoy fiction featuring real-life figures. The writing is clear and the descriptions are good, and the author is careful to explain historical viewpoints as opposed to those of the present.
Was this review helpful?
Not for me. It feels heavy on exposition, rather than creating atmosphere. The characters feel like a generic family - cheeky child, busy single mum, fussy grandma - that could have come from a Radio 4 midweek drama. I didn't get a sense of Christine de Pizan's extraordinary character and position, or feel like I was immersed in the period. DNF
Was this review helpful?
This mystery takes us to 14th century France and the choices women had at this time. Christine de Pizan has previous experience in investigation for the King. She was the obvious choice when a young nun is killed at the Priory of Poissy. Due to the links the King and Christine had at the Priory Christine, her young son and two companions journeyed to the Priory. This mystery will involve suspicions of Sorcery and a Priory that has all the jealousy and secrets that make for many suspects. It will give you an insight  into the colourful sights of the time and the many changes women had to make to fit into an established mold.
I was given an arc of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?