Expertly recreating the social and political upheavals of late medieval Europe and the increasing power of the wealthy merchant class, acclaimed author Candace Robb introduces a new series starring Kate Clifford, a woman forged on the warring northern marches of fourteenth century England.
Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the fifteenth century, as rival factions take sides on who should be the rightful king—Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent minded twenty-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence rather than bow to pressures to remarry, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guest house for prominent visitors to the minster. In a dance of power, she also quietly rents discreet bedchambers to the wealthy, powerful merchants of York for nights with their mistresses.
But the brutal murder of a mysterious guest and the disappearance of his companion for the evening threatens all that Kate has built. Before others in the city hear word of a looming scandal, she must call upon all of her hard-won survival skills to save herself from ruin.
“The Service of the Dead by Candace Robb is a strikingly well crafted novel that is a compelling page-turner from beginning to end. Very highly recommended.” Midwest Book Review
“Candace Robb returns with a new series set in 1399 York, featuring a true badass, Kate Clifford. Kate has a rich backstory, fleshed out throughout the book while she veers from crisis to crisis. She’s a widow who moved to York from Scotland for safety’s sake, but as York at that time was a hotbed of political intrigue, nowhere is really safe. …what Robb really excels at are action scenes, and there are several sprinkled throughout the narrative. They really make this a rocket powered read. …It’s wonderful to have a new novel and character to cherish from this talented writer.” Robin Agnew, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore
“Candace Robb has started a new series featuring twenty-year-old Kate Clifford who is struggling to pay off the debts left by her late husband. It is set in the time of the conflict between Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke so there is a ton of history intertwined with the story. And as this is a very interesting period of English history, at least it is for me, this was a particularly enjoyable read. Mind you, I like historical settings; I always like that I‘m getting an education in such a pleasurable form. In The Service of the Dead Kate has turned one of her properties in York into a guesthouse and another into an exclusive bedchamber for local wealthy merchants and their mistresses. She is managing to make ends meet and even pay off some of the debts. Until the brutal murder of a mysterious guest and the disappearance of his companion threaten all that she has built. With both Richard and Henry trying to gain the support of the various nobles there is a lot of intrigue and suspicion throughout the country-side and Kate doesn’t know who is on which side. Or whom she can trust. A great read, from the author of the wonderful Owen Archer and Lucie series, set in the 1360s.” Sleuth of Baker Street
As the fourteenth century comes to a close, York seethes on the brink of civil war—and young widow Kate Clifford, struggling to keep her businesses afloat, realizes that her mother is harboring a dangerous secret…
1399. York is preparing for civil war, teeming with knights and their armed retainers summoned for the city’s defense. Henry of Lancaster is rumored to have landed at Ravenspur on the northeast coast of England, not so far from York, intent on reclaiming his inheritance—an inheritance which his cousin, King Richard, has declared forfeit.
With the city unsettled and rife with rumors, Eleanor Clifford’s abrupt return to York upon the mysterious death of her husband in Strasbourg is met with suspicion in the city. Her daughter Kate is determined to keep her distance, but it will not be easy—Eleanor has settled next door with the intention of establishing a house of beguines, or poor sisters. This sudden piety worries Kate—is it an act of penance? If so, for what? When one of the beguines is set upon in the night by an intruder and her rescuer dragged away by a group of soldiers, Kate knows that for the sake of her own reputation and the safety of her young wards she must investigate.
From the first, Eleanor is clearly frightened yet maintains a stubborn silence about her life in Strasbourg and her husband’s death. The brutal murder of one of Eleanor’s servants leads Kate to suspect that her mother’s troubles have followed her from Strasbourg. Is she secretly involved in the political upheaval? When one of her wards is frightened by a too-curious stranger, Kate is desperate to draw her mother out of her silence before tragedy strikes her own household.
“Lovers of Shakespeare’s Richard II will find Robb’s intricate sequel to 2016’s The Service of the Dead a particular treat, as it charts the course of Richard’s downfall and his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke’s rise through the fears and uncertainties of the residents of the city of York in July 1399. These anxieties are worsened by a series of strange deaths connected to the extended family of Kate Clifford, a fierce young widow struggling to cope with not only her own household of jostling servants and the recently arrived illegitimate children of her late husband but also the return of her quarrelsome mother, Eleanor, from Strasbourg with religious women in tow. The character of Clifford is compelling and finely drawn, and for those readers who are patient enough to manage an unusually large number of secondary characters, the answers to a series of mysteries, starting with the reason for an intruder’s attack on a beguine (or poor sister) in the middle of the night, are highly satisfying.” Publishers Weekly starred review
It is deep winter in York, 1400, the ground frozen, the short days dimmed with the smoke from countless fires, the sun, when it shines, low in the sky. It is rumored that the Epiphany Rising, meant to relieve the realm of the Henry the usurper and return King Richard to the throne has, instead, spelled his doom. As long as Richard lives, he is a threat to Henry; so, too, the nobles behind the plot. The ringleaders have been caught, some slaughtered by folk loyal to Henry as they fled west, and the king’s men now search the towns for survivors.
A perilous time, made worse for Kate Clifford by the disappearance of Berend, her cook and confidante, shortly after Christmas. Her niece saw his departure in a dream—he said he was honor bound to leave. Honor bound—to a former lord? One of the nobles who led the uprising? Is he alive? She is hardly consoled when Berend reappears, wounded, secretive, denying any connection to the uprising, but refusing to explain himself. When he is accused of brutally murdering a spice seller in the city, Kate discovers a chest of jewels in his possession. Some of the jewels belong to her old friend Lady Margery, wanted by the king for her husband’s part in the uprising. For the sake of their long friendship, and the love she and her wards bear for him, Kate wants to believe Berend’s innocence. So, too, does Sir Elric. And he has the powerful backing of the Earl of Westmoreland. All Kate need do is confide in him. If only she trusted her heart.
“Robb deftly weaves in historical background and details, ranging from political context to facets of daily life. Fans of medieval history will enjoy the details of running a household and cooking, the history behind women’s jewelry, and the intrigues between different factions in York and beyond. Mystery fans will appreciate how Robb manages the many characters and plot twists, tying up seemingly loose ends into a creative and rational outcome. Kate Clifford is an intriguing character in Robb’s oeuvre, privileged enough to mix with the upper classes, yet streetwise and welcoming to the poor. Through her, readers are afforded a well-rounded view of 15th-century life, as well as a page-turner of a tale.” Historical Novel Society
“Set in York in 1400, Robb’s superior third Kate Clifford mystery (after 2017’s A Twisted Vengeance) puts the redoubtable heroine in considerable peril. Richard II has been deposed and succeeded by his cousin, Henry IV. After Henry survives a plot to return the throne to Richard, the sovereign sees conspirators everywhere. Kate, who runs a guesthouse whose upper chambers are frequently rented to the wealthy for private assignations, finds herself between a rock and a hard place when an old friend, Lady Margery Kirkby, appears at her door seeking shelter. Lady Margery’s husband, Sir Thomas, sought to persuade Henry to improve the conditions of Richard’s imprisonment, but ended up branded an enemy of the crown and decapitated. Kate takes the new widow in, but the risks to herself increase after her former cook, who’s suspected of being a threat to Henry, is accused of murder. Robb effortlessly integrates the era’s intrigues into a whodunit framework and peoples the plot with a wide array of characters readers will come to care about.” Publishers Weekly starred review