Sunday 22 July 2012

Paul Doherty: The House Of Shadows Reviewed

Five Kentish knights gather annually at the Night in Jerusalem tavern in Southwark, a reunion of old soldiers. Good food, good drink, a doxy or two to hasten the blood, then back to their families. This year, though, is different, as one by one the knights are found dead, in mysterious and misleading circumstances.

Other murders occur, muddying the waters to be investigated by Sir John Cranston, Coroner of the City of London, and his scrivener Brother Athelstan. Underlying all is the tale of a stolen fortune, the Lombard treasure. Borrowed to pay for a war, gone missing with its escort on the night it was sent to a waiting fleet, many want the treasure - not least the Machiavellian Regent, John of Gaunt.

Already a rich mix, Doherty throws in a few more mysteries. Who is the Misericord, a thief who seeks sanctuary in Athelstan's church? Who has paid the Judas man, savage bounty hunter, to seek and kill the Misericord? What possible connection could either have with current murders or past robbery?

Doherty has written another rich novel of crime in old London, setting timeless misdeeds against the rich and rotting panoply of the old city. From the Fisher Of The Dead to the tavern keepers, the merchants rich and poor, the slatterns, the author keeps us entertained as our two heroes stumble at first, then begin to make sense of the investigations. There's some fine deductive reasoning - mostly by Athelstan as usual.

If you like historical fiction with fine detail, good plot and a narrative that fairly races along, this will appeal to you. One of the best of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan.


Julie Ann Brady said...

I'd been looking at Brother Athelstan a little more closely. I love historical novels but gravitate to non-fiction or based on non-fiction with a twist. Sounds compelling!

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