OK, now this one needs a little explanation. Apparently when Chaucer’s pilgrims were on the way to Canterbury, apart from the Canterbury Tales, they also, in the evening, told tales of murder to each other. A Haunt of Murder is The Clerk’s Tale in this category and it’s a little odd. Having so far read from Paul Doherty a few of the Hugh Corbett mysteries and one Brother Athelstan, I was expecting a straightforward murder mystery – nothing in the cover blurb led me to believe otherwise. I certainly wasn’t expecting one of the detective characters to get killed in the first few chapters. Moreover, I certainly wasn’t expecting that, despite this, they would continue to play a major part in the investigations – as a ghost…
Half of the story consists of Ralph, a clerk at the castle of Sir John de Grasse and his hunt for a hidden treasure, a hunt made all the more urgent by the fact that someone else is looking for it – someone who is not afraid to kill to find it (and does rack up quite an impressive body count). The other half is odder, as it concerns Ralph’s beloved (and quickly murdered) Beatrice and her new “life” as a ghost – meeting other ghosts and
deadlier spirits and trying to help Ralph in the process.
It’s certainly not what I was expecting, but Doherty seemingly takes advantage of the fact that this is a story told by Chaucer’s clerk by introducing a supernatural element. I say seemingly, as by the end of the story, it is clearly being presented as fact (including the ghost bits) but by then, I didn’t care.
The ghost bits are fine, if a little odd, and suit the feel of the story. There are a few places where it crosses over into the “real world” story, in particular during a violent exorcism, and by anchoring it thus, it gives it a lot more relevance than it could have. The real world story is excellent – a well-planned mystery with a well-hidden villain, and a very smart use of the ghost story to hide a clue. In fact, there are many parallels between the two worlds, but to say any more would give too many hints as to the big picture.
This one may not be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it a lot and I’ll certainly be trying to find more of these Pilgrim’s Tales. Recommended.
WHERE CAN I FIND THIS?
I got it from my local library – I think it’s still in print, but you’ll probably have to go online to buy a copy.