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by Tom Harper
St Martin's Minotaur, September 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 0312338708

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1098, the First Crusaders are stuck in Byzantium. They cannot advance forward nor can they return home. They are running short of food and other supplies. The Turks are advancing so the future seems short and bleak. In the midst of this depression is the murder of a Norman knight, Drago. It is evident that this knight was killed recently and by one of his own. Demetrios Askiates is ordered to investigate even though he is not attached to the band of Norman mercenaries. No one is willing to assist Askiates with his investigation, as many prefer to hide from the truth. Even when more men are murdered, Askiates still cannot receive the support he needs.

Amidst the battles, bloodshed and scavenging, Askiates is able to discover that all of the victims seem to have a connection with a heretic religious sect operating in the area. While this sect is responsible for same of the scars on the victims' bodies, Askiates is not sure that they are responsible for the murders. He must discover the truth in order to stop the murders and protect others from the sect's beliefs.

KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS is a well-researched book. This book provides a lot of details about the First Crusade; about the experiences of the soldiers during the siege and battles as well the motivation behind the troops' leaders. At times these details drag down the plot and slow the story rather than enrich the book. I appreciate the fact that Tim Harper wants his book to be historically realistic but I wish this information was seamlessly added to the plot rather than presented in a manner that distracts from it.

This book reminds me of the books by Bernard Cornwell although the action is not quite as bloody. KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS devotes more time to the battles, war strategies, planning, and other military actions than on the investigation of the murders. Historical mysteries are one of my favorite sub-genres, yet I still expect my historical mysteries to devote a large percentage of the plot to the crime and the investigation of said crime. I do not enjoy reading in depth about war and battles so any historical mystery that makes these events their focus are not books that I enjoy reading. For readers without this same reading preference, KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS could be an enjoyable book.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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