A Question of Death - The Hours of Juana the Mad Synopsis

Phryne is attending the academics cocktail party at Melbourne University with Jeoffrey Bisset who had promised to show her the departments treasure – the Book of Hours made for Mad Queen Juana of Spain. Phryne eavesdrops on a number of conversations all more gossip than anything academic. Bisset interrupts her and takes her to see the book but she is waylaid by Gerald Street the Angelo Saxon and Old Norse tutor. Phryne catches up with Bisset and they go to the library to see the book where they meet the librarian Katz. When Katz opens the safe the book is not there.

They call a meeting of the faculty and Phryne looks through the rest of the contents of the safe which contains papers and the Deans wife's pearls. She pulls out the Latin term papers and Bisset notices a leaf that should not be in the paper. It is a couplet from Carmina Burana from O Fortuna. Phryne asks what it means and Hoskins tells her it means “in this hour without delay touch the beat of the heart' or pluck the strings of the heart.

Phryne suspects the thief is distinguished as they left this clue as oppose to a common thief who would have taken the pearls. Phryne tells the faculty if they think someone has crept in and stolen the book they should call the police but the faculty members are opposed to the idea as they believe the thief must be among them. Phryne asks who has connection in America and needs money.

Gerald Street tell her that Bradbury is bankrupt after trying to play a system on the horses and Phryne says she will solve the theft and when she does she wants to dine at the high table. The Dean tells her no lady is allowed to dine at the high table and Phryne says she will.
Phryne goes out to the courtyard and notices a piece of parchment pinned to a tree. It says 'Tempora a lapsa volant fugitivis falimur horis' Phryne recognises horis as hours. Phryne write Quare? (why?) under the couplet and leaves the university.

That night at dinner Bisset translates the couplet for Phryne as 'Time that is fallen is flying, we are deceived by the passing hours'. Phryne asks Bisset what he does at the university and he says he is professor of English Lit and a tutor in the classics – Latin and Greek. He says it gives him time to work on his book translating the poems of Alcuin. Bisset asks Phryne if she would like to see his work and says he had seen some of the original manuscripts but not all as one family won't let him see one of the manuscripts. This makes Bisset angry as he says knowledge should be free. Phryne asks him who he thinks stole the book of hours and Bisset says he doesn’t think it was Bradbury.

Phryne returns to the tree in the courtyard of the university and notices another parchement which states 'Quis legem dat amantibus' (what law for lovers) Phryne write underneath Render unto me Monmouth and went into the faculty office to find Gerald Street berating his copy typists. Phryne asks him about his investigating and he tells her Bradbury denies it but was alone for a good few hours in the library so had the opportunity. He asks Phryne if she could open the safe easily and she shows him by easily removing the back of the safe.

Phryne goes back to the courtyard and sees another note on the tree which states Dolorous Gard. Phryne muses about the Arthurian legend and the two castles Dolorous Gard and Joyous Gard. Phryne replies to the note with 'usbis est libus' and leaves to bone up on her knowledge of Arthurian legends.

The next day Phryne returns to the courtyard and finds another note, this time Chaucer stating 'A knight there was, and that a wont thy man … he loved chivalry, truth and honour, freedom and curteseye'. Phryne is confused by this and scribbles on the paper give me back the book or else and sat on a nearby bench to watch for the culprit. Phryne notices the English building with the clocktower and the law quadrangle that looked like a Gothic castle and has an idea. She goes to find Professor Hoskins and drags him to show him along with Professor Street. She then finds Bisset and a ladder. Phryne talks the professors through the clues and says if the English building is Joyous Gard then the law cloisters would be Dolorous Gard she climbs the ladder in front of a knight carved into the stone and reaches into the battlements where she produces the book along with another note stating 'Ave, formosissima' (hail most powerful lady) an invocation to Venus.

Phryne looks through the stunning book and asks how they could leave it locked away in a safe. The professors agree to display it in a glass case. The Dean asks who stole the book and Phryne says she wont tell as she's doesn't know. She then asks Bisset to take her for a drink to Noughtons.

At Noughtons she asks Bisset why he stole the book and he said he wanted it to be displayed. He asks Phryne how she knew it was him and she says that it could only be one of three people. Katz, Gerald Street or him and he was the only tall one amongst them and the parchment was pinned high on the tree.  

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