Saintly Murders by C L Grace aka Paul Doherty

Saintly MurdersSummer 1472, Canterbury. Kathryn Swinbrooke has been appointed by the Archbishop for a crucial task. Friar Roger Atwood, a soldier who committed terrible crimes before joining the church, has died. He has apparently led a holy life for many years, and, having been found dead in his room with his body betraying stigmata, miracles are now being attributed to him. An appeal is made for his beatification – and Kathryn is brought in to argue against it.

At the same time, a spy is found dead in an inn outside the city, locked in his room but with his head smashed in. He was carrying the name of a traitor in the royal court – but when Kathryn finds that everything seems to revolve around Dame Cecily, the mother of King Edward IV, she starts to smell a rat. For, you see, Atwood was Dame Cecily’s confessor. Oh, and she can probably smell the multitude of rats that have mysteriously appeared across the city…

Potentially the latest setting for my Medieval Miscreants strand of reviews, as the dawn of the Tudors is a mere thirteen years away, this is the fifth of seven novels featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke, an apothecary in Canterbury and her household. It was written under one of Paul Doherty’s pseudonyms and is a right swine to get hold of… or is it? Stay tuned for some exciting news…

An interesting series, this one. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I got to the third book, The Merchant of Death, I was hooked. The characters’ lives move on as the books progress – most notably the romance between Kathryn and Colum Murtaugh, the Master of the King’s Horses – and, more important, there is a cracking mystery going on as well.

There’s a lot going on the mystery here – a number of characters are doing all sorts of secret things as well as the murderer. You get a coded message to decipher (although I’d be stunned if you manage to spot the message), a conspiracy from the French to topple the monarchy, possible spontaneous human combustion… There’s one section in particular that I found particularly chilling – Kathryn has unwisely chosen to stay at the Friary, despite the fact that the murderer is on the prowl…

Add in as well a snapshot of the royal court – doves sewn inside a dead swan are released, only to be torn apart by the King’s falcons – and you’ve got something for everyone. The murderer, once you get to a certain point, is pretty guessable, but it’s a highly entertaining read. If you’re a fan of the Hugh Corbett or the Brother Athelstan books, then you’ll want to look out for this series…

… which will be a lot easier in about six weeks time when Headline, due to release of Paul Doherty’s 100th book, The Last Of Days, will be releasing the rest of his back catalogue as ebooks – including those released under his many pseudonyms. Great news, as it’ll give everyone a chance to read this series, as well as some of his other, more obscure, books, such as the Anna Apostolou titles featuring Alexander The Great, including one of my favourites, A Murder In Thebes.

Anyway, back to this one. Another strong entry in a strong series. Highly recommended.


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