The Treason Of The Ghosts (2000) by Paul Doherty – a re-read

The village of Melford has a troubled history. Five years ago, a number of young women were brutally attacked, violated and then garrotted. The village lived in a state of fear until the local lord, Sir Roger Chapeley was caught after another death. He was tried and found guilty by a jury of locals, and then executed for his crimes. And with Sir Roger dead, that was the end of that… for five years.

As Sir Roger’s son petitions King Edward to investigate what he believes to be a miscarriage of justice against his father, the attacks begin again. But that is not all the death that is taking place. The leaders of the jury are being picked off, one by one. Has Sir Roger returned from the grave to seek his revenge? Or is a mortal hand at work?

Yes, it’s another Paul Doherty re-read, this time jumping ahead in the Sir Hugh Corbett series to Book Twelve. It’s a title that I enjoyed when first reading it, and enjoyed just as much the second time around. You know the deal – beautiful historical detail, a complex plot, multiple deaths, a villain with a nickname – The Mummer’s Man – basically, one of the finest historical mystery writers out there, writing at the top of his game.

You know what, I’m just going to reprint what I wrote the first time:

The village – a new setting for a Corbett book – is a well-crafted setting. Devoid of the usual lords and ladies that populate the books, we’re concerned mostly with the everyday medieval folk. And by not having a band of soldiers or lords or priests, etc, Doherty avoids the one niggle I sometimes have with his books, namely a set of interchangeable suspects and/or victims. Everyone here is distinctive and has their own motivations and responses to the terror that has returned to their lives.

The atmosphere is unsettling as well. A ghost seems to lurk around every corner and as the picture begins to emerge of the so-called Mummers Man, a masked monster stalking the countryside, you begin to realise that this is no mere murderer being chased by Corbett, but a genuine nightmare.

The mystery itself is well done. One aspect is quite guessable, partly due to an attempt at misdirection that stood out to this reader, but the second, more substantial part of the mystery is very well-hidden and yet makes perfect sense. There’s a misdirection ploy here as well, which, to be honest, pointed me towards the killer rather than away from them, but I felt that I’d done well to spot it in this case.

So, to summarise, one of the best of the Doherty novels to date. Very enjoyable, very creepy and a great read. Highly recommended.

Like a lot of Paul’s work, it’s available for a pittance as an ebook or there are plenty of second hand papery versions out there. Definitely worth your time.

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