The Riddle Of St. Leonards Essay

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This book is fictional, yet based on fact. It is an entertaining mystery by Candace

Robb. When Candace Robb was a child she loved books. She promised herself

that she would read all the books on the shelves of a library. She never did it, but

still read lots of books throughout her life. Her first efforts at writing were poems.

She moved into a journalistic stage which lasted all throughout graduate school. It

was after leaving graduate school that she focused on creative writing. She wrote

short stories, mostly about science fiction, but one story was inspired by her

graduate work in medieval studies. She thought her book would never get

published, but then she found a job as an editor of research publications at the

University of Washington. Her short story wasn’t published, but she turned that

story into a novel, The Apothecary Rose. Candace is now the author of two

ongoing mystery series featuring medieval sleuths, the Margaret Kerr Mysteries

and the Owen Archer Mysteries. Ms.Robb researched a lot for these novels.

Candace read a lot of depressing readings, both in statistics and in handbooks for

physicians that were written in the period. Through many letters, sermons,

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and the plague handbooks, she tried to get a sense of how the people fought to

survive with the horror of the plague. She also had some help from a friend who

was an expert on St. Leonard’s Hospital. Her name was P. H. Cullum, she was

very educated in the studies of medieval hospitals. This was beneficial to

Ms.Robb, especially when writing The Riddle of St. Leonard’s.

The main character of The Riddle of St. Leonard’s is Owen Archer. Owen

is an ex-soldier, who is now a spy for the Archbishop of York and for sometime

Lord Chancellor of England, John Thoresbry. Owen is assisted in his sleuthing by

a group of York residents who include his wife, the apothecary Lucie, and Bess

Merchet, owner of the York Tavern. There is also Magda Digby who is a

midwife. She is called the Riverwoman and goes with Owen on his missions to

solve crimes. Honoria de Staines is also a main character in this story and she is

thought to play a big part in these crimes.

This story takes place in 1369 A.D. in the city of York. Owen has been

asked by York’s Archbishop John Thoresby and his nephew Richard de Ravenser,

the Master of St. Leonard’s Hospital, to find what lies behind the troubles at the

hospital. Once again, York’s one-eyed ex-soldier, reluctantly accepts these

missions. Queen Phillippa was very sick and everything was falling apart. The

plague returned to York and many people were terrified. Owen’s apothecary wife

Lucie needed his comforting presence, having sent their children to her father in

the countryside. Owen was called upon to investigate the theft of fine treasures

from St. Leonard’s Hospital and the sudden deaths of aging patients. Someone was

murdering corrodians, those who make generous gifts in return for lifetime care

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and board in the institution. One of these deaths was not forgotten. The death of

Laurence de Warrene was not overlooked and brought about a dilemma. Bess

and Owen were determined to find the truth behind his death.

Owen was faced with another task. He was sent to find a girl named

Alisoun Ffulford. She was an 11-year-old who had been left behind by her parents

when they died of pestilence, leaving her alone on their shabby farm. Owen and

Magda Digby went on a search for her and took her back to stay with some

relatives, but she refused. Alisoun was instead sent to St. Leonard’s, where lay

sister Anneys presented another mystery for Owen and his crew to solve. Stolen

items were involved and everything and everyone was mixed up in this riddle.

Then there was a rumor about illegal scandals having to do with Honoria de

Staines. She was once a woman of the street, now a lay sister being trained as a

nurse. She refused to speak about anything that she knew of, and in return was

locked up. Owen and the others tried to get her to talk, but she still withheld

information. With help from tavern keeper Bess Merchet, and from witch like

Magda Digby, Owen eventually found the answers to these riddles.

This book did not seem to be written from any point of view because it is a

fictional story. If I had to choose I would probably say it is written from a

negative point of view. I think so because this story is about medieval times and

explains all the disasters the pestilence has brought about, and all of the crimes

being committed.

Candace Robb used Latin and Old English in this story. She used words

from Old English such as spital an early English word for hospital, and favourite

instead of favorite. She also uses some slang terms for example, Nay’, Ay’, and

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Sweet Jesu.

I thought the length of this book was a little long. I do not usually read

books that are too long because I guess you could say I’m an impatient reader.

I’m always in a hurry to finish reading so I can find out how the story ends. I can

get bored if a book is too long, but this one held my attention.

The book’s strength was being a mystery story because I love mysteries.

They always keep you wondering about what is going to happen next. This makes

you want to keep reading the book, and you end up finishing it quicker than you

thought possible.

The book’s weakness was skipping from place to place in each chapter.

One chapter the book was with Owen and Magda, and the next chapter the book

was with Alisoun in a totally different place. That was confusing to me, but it

made me read more of each chapter to find out where I was and what was going

on.

The major impression I gained from the book was that sometimes the

culprit is the one who you least expected. Someone who you least anticipate to do

something, may be the one to do it. You must follow the facts and they will lead

you to the guilty party.

I liked the book because it kept me on the edge of my seat. At one point I

thought a certain person was at fault, but the story would change and I would

become confused again. I also found it interesting to learn about the medieval time

period, and all the obstacles those people had to overcome in their life, such as the

plague.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. I think teenagers, my

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age and older would enjoy reading this book. It keeps you on your toes, and while

you are reading you are also learning about the past. I also think that this story

makes the characters come alive. It makes you feel like you are in the story,

watching it all take place.

After reading this book I learned what the medieval ages were like, and

how the plague caused a lot of trouble for people of all ages. This story was at the

time of the third outbreak of the plague. Children were taken away from their

families, and sent to safety. The ill were removed from their homes, and put into

isolation. Businesses were forced to move because people fled from the plague.

So many problems and not enough people to solve them all.

I also learned a little about medieval hospitals, and what they were like.

The hospitals were more concerned about care than cure. They tried to make the

soul stronger, and relief the body of any pain.

I picked up some new words too, such as grandme meaning grandmother

and mazer meaning large wooden cup.

I also found out, while reading the Author’s Note, that Queen Phillippa did

not die from the plague. She had been sick for many years. Then all of the sudden

she took a turn for the worst.

I think I would enjoy reading other books from this series. For example:

The Nun’s Tale or The King’s Bishop. Candace Robb is a very experienced

writer, and I think she enjoys her work. That is why she is so good at what she

does. Hopefully she will continue writing these mystery books for her series and

they will last for a long time.

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