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by Maureen Ash
Berkley, September 2007
288 pages
ISBN: 0425217655

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lincoln, England. Summer 1200 AD. Sheriff Gerard Camville and his wife, castellan Nicolaa de la Haye, are out hunting with their falcons when a man at arms comes from town with a message from the Captain of the castle guard. Ernulf. Four people have been found dead in an alehouse, a woman, a young man, a Jew, and the innkeeper.

Nicolaa returns to the castle, leaving her husband to continue to train his young raptor. She knows he has no interest in dealing with the deaths. As castellan, she takes over the investigation.

Apparently, the alemaker, who is also the wife of the innkeeper, has run across the street to the church of St Andrew's to seek solace from Father Anselm. When Nicolaa returns, so asks Ernulf and Sir Bascot de Marins, a Templar who had appeared in Lincoln during the winter, to investigate. They find that all except the innkeeper had been killed before being brought to the alehouse. The wife, now at her sister's house, isn't telling them all the truth, and Father Anselm is attacked, only his hair shirt saving him from instant death.

Sir Bascot is an interesting character. He has recently returned to England after having spent eight years in captivity among the heathens. He has a very un-Templar-like reaction to the Jews, since it was a Jew who allowed him to escape while sacrificing himself. He is sort of on leave from the Order and conflicted about what he wants to do. The investigation gives him time to think about his future.

Ash has created an interesting picture of life in Lincoln during the Middle Ages. She concentrates on people rather than on ambience, but the characters are interesting as are the levels of society she sketches. For those of you who enjoy historical mysteries, this looks like the beginning of a series you won't want to miss.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, July 2007

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