One of the first things I learned as a mystery writer was 'don't kill off pets'. Your readers will never forgive you. Iris Collier did not heed this rule, probably to stir up anger in her readers against the perpetrator instead of her. She used such a heinous crime to illustrate the religious fervor and fanaticism of the early sixteenth century monks to hang on to their monasteries against a king bent on dissolving them. I can't argue with that logic but it's still not a technique I would use.
After reading a number of whodunits set during Elizabeth I's reign, it's interesting to have a mystery set during her father's turn on the throne, Henry VIII. Collier's foray into the medieval mysteries, Day of Wrath, takes place during King Harry's dissolution of the monasteries.
Sir Nicholas Peverell, after a visit to the King, finds a loyal steward has been murdered. Unconvinced it was the work of thieves, he launches an investigation reluctantly assisted by Mistress Jane Warrener, a beautiful local girl with a keen wit and sharp intelligence.
She tells him that she has heard talk of conspiracy and treason against the king and that the steward's death may be linked to something he overheard. Their suspicions grow deeper when the young woman carrying the steward's child slowly wastes away. Although her death is attributed to natural causes, Nicholas and Jane are certain that she was killed because she also knew about the treasonous plot, called Dies Irae, 'Day of Wrath' in Latin.
A neighbor of Nicholas's is arrested as part of the scheme but dies on the rack before identifying the mastermind behind the conspiracy, a man known only as Ultor, the avenger.
The King, well aware of the plot to kill him, decides to visit Nicholas at his home in Sussex. Although Henry is blissfully unconcerned, Nicholas is thrown into a panic at the thought of the king in his home, wanting to go hunting and inspecting his ships at Southampton, while an assassin is on the loose nearby.
And he owes the king a new doublet. One that's green and very expensive.
Nicholas also fears for the Priory in his community. He knows that the King will inventory everything, confiscate anything that's valuable and then turn the monks out. The Prior refuses to believe any of this and insists on showing off the riches of the priory to all and sundry.
Collier keeps the story interesting by peppering it with facts and descriptions of England during the reign of Henry Tudor. But the climax falls flat as the assassination attempt is foiled and the traitor revealed all in one sentence. C. J. Sansom's Dissolution is a more satisfying read. Not that the readers will be disappointed in Day of Wrath. It's still as good as the majority of mysteries out there. Collier inserts a lot of humor into King Henry's conversations with Sir Nicholas, intertwining his talk with the arrogance and snobbery he was known for. Anyone who is a fan of historical whodunits will enjoy Day of Wrath.