The House Of Crows (1995) by Paul Doherty – a re-read

A demon is stalking Southwark, hiding in the shadows and striking from nowhere. Cats are disappearing from the streets – but Brother Athelstan and the coroner, Sir John Cranston, have other, darker, concerns. Sir John of Gaunt, the Regent to the throne of England, has called together Parliament from the length and breadth of the country, a summons that a group of knights from Shropshire will soon regret.

Death is stalking those knights – someone is sending them mysterious warnings and then picking them off one by one. Someone who can appear and disappear without trace. How can an assassin walk past armed guards carrying an executioner’s axe and not be challenged? And why do the knights stay in London, seemingly to be killed at will, rather than running home?

This is the sixth Brother Athelstan mystery, another of my re-reads of the series, newly re-released by Canelo Books, and I think it’s one of the best. It certainly contains one of Paul’s best-hidden murderers, and while not containing an out-and-out impossibility like most of the others in the series, the method the killer uses to murder in a guarded area is beautifully simple and yet well hidden.

At this point in the series, Athelstan and Cranston seem to be firm friends, so the author starts to build up a little more the possible treasons of Athelstan’s parishioners, the beginnings of the Peasants’ Revolt. On top of this, we also have the machinations of John of Gaunt, who, worryingly, has begun to notice Athelstan and decides to do something about him.

Beautifully written, a classic mystery that just happens to be set in fourteenth century London. This is a great series and as you might have guessed from the fact that I’ve re-read it, comes with my highest recommendation.

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