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Chains of Folly    by Roberta Gellis order for
Chains of Folly
by Roberta Gellis
Order:  USA  Can
Five Star, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

The best thing about reading a Roberta Gellis novel is just that the reading. The worst is finishing that last page. There is no one better when it comes to the medieval fiction and with Chains of Folly Gellis has delivered yet another satisfying romp with sometime sleuth, full time whoremistress Magdalene la Batarde and her love, Sir Bellamy of Itchen, who also happens to be knight to Magdalene's landlord, the Bishop of Winchester.

While a plot that includes the good church owning a brothel promises interesting situations to say the least, Gellis has constructed a taut mystery filled with glimpses of life in 12th century England during the reign of King Stephen. Gellis is so well versed in the time period's customs and feel that you can practically smell the aroma of the cookshops and hear the vendors hawking their wares at the outdoor markets.

When a fellow working girl's dead body is found in the Bishop's bedroom with a damaging letter hidden on her, Sir Bellamy enlists Magdalene's help in discovering the culprit and the circumstances surrounding her murder. The dead prostitute, Nelda Roundheels, is killed off stage but readers will thoroughly enjoy learning about her as her story unfolds, and meeting the various characters along the way who have found themselves caught in her web. The situation is further complicated by Magdalene and Sir Bellamy's relationship the pair is in love but Bell (as he is known) can't reconcile her line of work and loyalty to her protector, William of Ypres, with his feelings for the beautiful madam. Bell and Magdalene work well together as they try to put together a puzzle that could have serious political implications for Bell's priestly boss.

Chains of Folly is the fourth in a series - the proceeding books being A Mortal Bane, A Personal Devil and Bone of Contention - and it more than lives up to its predecessors. Gellis has created a unique family with the three prostitutes who live in Magdalene's house - the mute Letice, the childlike Ella, and the savvy Diot - and the minor characters in this novel are well developed and intriguing. There has apparently been some question among fans as to whether or not this series will continue and for all of our sakes I hope it does. Magdalene and Bell are wonderful characters who deserve many more adventures.

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