London, 1304, and a prison break leads to a slaughter on the villains involved, after they have sealed themselves inside a church, the same church the secret assassin known as the Mysterium vanished without a trace from many years. But surely it cannot be a coincidence that the mark of the Mysterium is found on two recent victims. Chief Justice Evesham, responsible for unmasking the Mysterium in the past, has fallen from grace and fled in seclusion to a monastery. It cannot keep him safe, as the Mysterium has apparently passed through a guarded locked room to slit his throat. After his clerk is found drowned in the Thames, Edward I turns to Sir Hugh Corbett to track the Mysterium down. Has he returned after so many years away, or has someone taken up the role? And how long is the list of those he intends to slay this time?
The seventeenth and final Hugh Corbett novel – you can find reviews for the rest on the website here. To summarise, the first four were good reads, and the next twelve were outstanding. It was a Hugh Corbett book that got me into Paul Doherty’s work and I’ve been saving the last one for when it was needed. Anyway, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and having just read a bit of a duffer, I needed something to kick-start my reading again.
And it’s exactly what I expected and exactly what I needed. An outstanding historical evocation – the opening sections in particular show just how unpleasant London could be – and an absolutely gripping plot. There is more character development for Sir Hugh and for his sidekick Ranulf-Atte-Newgate and a ruthless murderer. With a varied set of suspects (which this time aren’t being murdered one by one), all with their own motivations, there is a logic behind the killings but it would take a better sleuth than I to spot it. There are a couple of impossibilities too, albeit not major ones, but they add a little complication to the plot.
Admittedly, there was one thing that did rather signpost the murderer for me, but even then I wasn’t ever sure – and a very nice bit of misdirection near the end had me completely doubting myself. And while I hope this is not the last hurrah for Corbett, there is a sense of ending here. It’s been three years since this book was published and Brother Athelstan lasted much longer than that in the wilderness, so let’s hope Hugh will ride again soon.
So, I’m afraid it’s the same message as ever, ever since The Prince Of Darkness. An outstanding read – Highly Recommended.
I bought my copy from Waterstones a while ago. It’s still in print and probably one of the easiest of Paul Doherty’s books to find.