The Riddle Of St. Leonards Essay
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
I would definitely recommend this book to others. I think teenagers, my
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.