London, in the autumn of 1379, and Brother Athelstan and Sir John Cranston are busier than they have ever been. As John of Gaunt attempts to strengthen his grip on the boy-king Richard II, the rumblings of an uprising are getting stronger.
Cranston is convinced that an old comrade-in-arms was murdered by his widow and her lover but can find no evidence that he was even killed, let alone that she committed the crime. Athelstan meanwhile has been tasked with exorcising a demon form a young girl who is accusing her parents of murder. This has to take a back seat, however, when Gaunt summons them to the Guildhall to deal with a more crucial matter – two guildmasters have been murdered, murders that should not have been possible, and the Ira Dei – the Anger of God – is claiming responsibility. The Revolt is coming… and the first shots have been fired.
Yes, I’m comfort reading again. Actually, I read this a few weeks ago, but didn’t want to post this so close to the last one. Why is Paul Doherty my choice for comfort reading? Well, apart from loving the characters, I know that his books are so densely packed with incident, I can read a small bit at a time and each time the plot will have moved forward. Yes, there is a rhythm to his books – Athelstan or Corbett getting a failed attempt at their lives is a frequent occurrence around the halfway point – but they never really feel like repeating themselves. And it gives me a chance to plug the re-released titles from Canelo Books, which now include some of the previously pricier titles from Severn House such as Bloodstone.
There are two main impossibilities here – the first involves the stabbing of a guildmaster when he is protected by his two savage wolfhounds, and the second concerns a poisoning at a meal where everyone was served the same food. Both have elegantly simple solutions – the first is definitely clued, the second, perhaps not so much – but Doherty finds the balance of making the impossibility important without it dominating the plot. It’s not an easy thing to do; sometimes the resolution to the impossibility is the whole plot for some authors, and for others it is dismissed and only revisited at the end when the sleuth reveals all. Perhaps it is because of Doherty’s use of tangentially-related-at-best subplots/mysteries, but his work always hits the middle line of everything being important and unforgotten without allowing anything to dominate the plot, bar the search for the truth.
There is a third impossibility here, the theft of gold from a chest that requires six different keys to open, each key owned by a different person. Admittedly, the solution to that one is pretty basic and disappointing, but it’s clear that Doherty knows that, reveals it early and uses it instead to push the plot forward.
All in all, another enjoyable outing for Brother Athelstan that keeps the reader turning the pages and desperate to (re-)read the next one. Will I? Or will I just read the NEW Brother Athelstan book that is out on December 31st that I’ve got an e-copy of?
It’ll probably be both, to be honest…