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Summary

In 12th century London, Magdalene la Bâtarde is the madam of the Old Priory Guesthouse in Southwark. She is not in the least bit sorry to learn that Bertrild, the unpleasant wife of Master Mainard, is dead. Bertrild was insulting to most people. She made threats, using terrible revelations as a weapon against those who would not bow down to her demanding ways.

However, when it seems that Mainard will be charged with Bertrild's murder, because no one accepts the oath of a whore that he is innocent, Magdalene, with her handsome friend, Sir Bellamy, decides to investigate.

©1999 Roberta Gellis (P)2005 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic reviews

"In addition to a well-crafted plot, moments of heart-stopping suspense, and a dramatic conclusion, the author provides poignant glimpses into the humanity of her characters, particularly the women of the guesthouse." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Yet another authentically detailed medieval mystery featuring a proactive feminist as the detective." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Too much information

I didn't want to hear so much about sexual activity in brothels. Émile Zola managed to portray all the vices of Second Empire Paris without the detail in "Nana"!
The author's final explanation of her view of this period of history is biased and dumbed down. I wish she hadn't "dissed" David I (and thereby Scotland, my country) in a throwaway line, which amply demonstrates her crude appreciation of history.
The plot is convoluted and contrived. I'm still not sure I know "whodunnit", after listening twice.
Perhaps the hook that induced me to persevere with another book was my curiosity about the "back stories" of main characters- did the ridiculously named madam murder her husband, her lover, or both? Why did the vindictive wife, bumped off early on, to nobody's regret, marry a man she has always despised? (The seeds of that particular mystery were sewn in book one.)

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great book

I really have enjoyed both these books . My only criticism is that there are so many characters that at times it got a little confusing but over all a good story well narrated. Fans of Candace Robb and Peter Elliot should enjoy these.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

12th Century London

I found this book interesting in that it gave many fine details about life in London in the medieval period under the reign of Stephen, but I found if difficult to get into this story. I was disappointed because I am interested in this period, but I found the characters bland and the story's structure weak. Perhaps because I have not read any of the others in the series I was not following the progress of these characters as familiar friends. I did listen to the end to find out who dunnit, but really did not mind as the characters had not captured my imagination. I know that Madalene La Batard is a whore mistress and that the women of the Old Priory Guesthouse play a vital role in the story but they did not interest me nor I felt add much to story except to show one of the few ways a woman could earn an independent living in this period.

Perhpas I will try another story in this series, but at the moment I feel luke warm about it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Dennis
  • 31-12-07

A life medieval

The Gellis' books have brought to life the many details of a 12th century life that are often overlooked by the academic accounts. And again, she brings to life the people who make life in King Stephen's reign seem real and believable. This tale, however, is the weakest of the three about Madeleine and her knight Sir Belamy. Although the resolution of the mystery is a stretch, it does not dilute the rich flow of the tapestry formed by the complex relationships that were part of human life then, and even now.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mysticalsister
  • 12-10-09

Wonderful Period Who Dunnit!

If you like historical mysteries, this one is a delight. The premise is unique, and the characters are so well written that I find myself thinking about them long after the book is done. (I have a total crush on Bell.) There are 3 of the series available here, but the 4th is out -- "Chains of Folly." Once you finish the last book, do what I did, and write to Audible and ask for the 4th. (Roberta Gellis is writing the 5th, "Bishop to King, Check!" even as I write this. By the way -- Nadia May is brilliant! Her various characters voices linger in my mind even now. Great Book!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Wadie
  • 05-06-08

Another Triumph

This is one of the best historical mystery series.
This book has both great characters who are wonderfully brought to life by Nadia May and a plot that really is a mystery. Excellent!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Bob Nelson
  • 06-06-11

Better than Ellis Peters

There are only four books in the "Magdal??ne la B??tarde" series of medieval whodunnits. Dammit. This is the fourth and last. Magdal??ne is the mistress of the Old Priory Guesthouse, in Southwark. A brothel. High class, and gentle with the employees... but a brothel all the same. Magdal??ne's relations with all other people are systematically defined by her status: known or unknown, and client or not client. She gets involved in murders. But she has friends, some in high places.
The mysteries are well plotted, but they are primarily backdrops for portraits and landscapes af great talent.
Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Lulu
  • 06-01-14

Answers Several Unanswered Questions

To me, the plot of this book was not nearly as engaging as the first book in the series was. The mystery wasn't particularly mysterious and it did not capture and hold my attention. However, I appreciated the background information about Magdalena included in this installment. It made her character far more understandable. I also liked the additional information included about her co-workers.

These are not, edge of your seat nail-biting mysteries to me. Rather the author does a great job (I think) of capturing a time and place, giving the reader a better understanding of each, along with those that inhabit it ... then throws a bit of mystery into the mix.

I will continue with this series, at least through the next book. After that, the change in narrator means I will switch to the e-book.

So, if you enjoy a great deal of historical ambiance, with fascinating, well developed characters, and a little mystery on the side, I recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • bluestategirl
  • 02-01-14

Wonderful Series! One of my favorites!

Roberta Gellis has written four wonderful mysteries set in medieval London. They all revolve around a very unique whore house and the woman who runs it.

Magdalene La Batard, the owner of the whore house, is an educated lady. Once married to a jealous and abusive husband, she flees when he is murdered, fearing to be blamed. Alone in a world where women are nothing more than chattel, Magdalene is determined not to be hung for the murder, or at best, to be forced to marry another man. Instead she uses her body, beauty and brains to make her own fortune and to be her own mistress.

But this is not a novel about a whore house. It's about an intelligent and courageous woman who is respected by the men and women in her life. She is involved in the life of a medieval town, and she is also engaged with men of power during that period.

With the help of a wealthy and powerful protector, she establishes her business in a former convent adjacent to a priory, where her women cater to the wealthy men of the city. Her customers pay a high price for the unique and special services her house provides.


I love all 3 of the books as read by Nadia May. Unfortunately, the 4th book, Chains of Folly, is narrated by Susan Duerdan and she really ruins it. It isn't available on Kindle or in paperback yet, but you can find it at the public library.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Elizabeth R. Watson
  • 07-10-12

One more great performance by Nadia May!

What did you like best about A Personal Devil? What did you like least?

I love the settings of these books featuring Magdalene and her girls, and most of all I like listening to Nadia May. The story itself was confusing and not too interesting.

What was most disappointing about Roberta Gellis’s story?

The story.

Which scene was your favorite?

Oh my goodness!

Could you see A Personal Devil being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Agains, for heaven's sake, I don't know

Any additional comments?

No

0 of 2 people found this review helpful