Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Alehouse Murders - Maureen Ash

The Alehouse Murders
A Templar Knight Mystery
Maureen Ash
Berkley Prime Crime

In the summer of 1200 A.D., Templar Knight Bascot de Marins is staying at the castle in Lincoln town. De Marins, who served the late King Richard, was held captive for years by the Saracens, and tortured. He now walks with a limp, and lost an eye. But an eye isn’t his most grievous loss; he may have lost his faith, as well. When he arrived in Lincoln, accompanied by a mute Italian boy, Nicolaa de la Haye, wife of the sheriff, and inheritor of the castle, immediately gave him shelter.

One morning, a rider brings the news to Nicolaa and Gerard, the sheriff, that murder has been done in town. There are four dead bodies in the local alehouse, all stabbed to death. This is bad, not only on its face, but because the midsummer fair is about to begin, bringing much-needed business to Lincoln. No one wants the town to be tainted as the hunting grounds of a murderer.

Ever practical, and with a good sense of the people around her, Lady Nicolaa turns to de Marins for help in investigating the murders. De Marins is looking for a way to bring purpose back to his life, and what better way, reasons, the good Lady, than to bring justice to the dead? It doesn’t take long to discover that one of the dead men is the illegitimate son of a local landowner, leading de Marins into the tangled web of family relations and family business.

This is the first installment in a new series, and it is, in a word, excellent. The author perfectly evokes the time and place, weaving details and customs into the narrative in a very natural way. Lady Nicolaa and her husband have worked out a relationship that is, while not usual, perfect for both of them. De Marins is a fascinating character, a man wounded in body and soul, searching to find his place in the world again. His internal struggle makes an interesting counterpoint to the murder investigation that is the centerpiece of the novel. There’s a second book planned for January, and I hope to see many more to come. THE ALEHOUSE MURDERS is outstanding and will appeal to fans of historical fiction, historical mystery, and character study.

Rating: 9
September 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21765-8 (paperback)


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