The Anger of God by Paul Harding aka Paul Doherty

As the more observant of you may have noticed, I’m having a bit of a Medieval season of reviews at the moment. It struck me as fair play to have a look at the alternatives to Paul Doherty, just in case anyone thinks I’m being a bit biased. So, do check out my reviews of The Tolls of Death and The Sanctuary Seeker by Michael Jecks and Bernard Knight respectively. And now we return to my regularly scheduled obsession…

The Anger of God is the fourth of the Brother Athelstan books – and in case you missed my tweet, the first two (The Nightingale Gallery and The House of the Red Slayer) are now available on Kindle for a bargain price. As they are fantastic examples of the genre, a) buy them and b) tell your friends. Apparently the rest of the Athelstan books are going to follow…

Anyway, back to this one. Conspiracies are abounded in the early reign of Richard II. The mysterious Ira Dei, the Anger of God, is plotting revolution against the King and his regent, John of Gaunt. Someone is stealing the body parts of executed criminals that have been displayed on London Bridge. A young girl is terrorising her parents as she appears to be possessed by the devil. And that’s just in the introduction…

Quickly following this, John Cranston, the Coroner of London, is charged, post-mortem, by an old colleague to punish his killer – but no method of death is apparent. Two of the Guildmasters of London are impossibly killed – one stabbed without waking up his ferociously loyal guard dogs and one poisoned during a royal banquet, despite eating the same food as everyone else. Let me think… is that it? Oh, and six bars of gold are stolen from a chest that the Guildmasters each own one of the six keys to. This doesn’t bode well for Gaunt’s alliance with the guilds. Ira Dei takes responsibility, but it is clear that the murderer must be one of those present at the banquet. Could The Anger of God be closer to Gaunt than he realises?

So, at least four mysteries in this one. Contrast and compare…

This is a cracker – the mysteries are well paced with only the theft of the gold having a prosaic solution. They interweave nicely and the primary crime, the death of the guildmasters, has a nicely logical solution. I’ll put my hand up and say that I was looking the wrong way at the reveal. I thought Doherty was playing a different game, so either I was overthinking it, or the author has being exceptionally crafty here. Probably a bit of both.

But let’s compare for a moment with the other medieval historicals so far. Both of the recent reviews are longer books in which, let’s be honest, less happens, plot-wise. There are those who would say that this lends more time to character development, and, if I had to put a finger on a weakness of this one, I would point out that a number of the non-murdered Guildmasters don’t get enough screen time to enable me to remember which was which. But if I had to choose between a fast-paced rollercoaster of a plot or a story that includes every peasant in the village’s point of view over and over again, I know which one I’d choose.

My only real disappointment was that it seemed that for a long part of the book, we were getting primarily Cranston’s point of view, rather than Athelstan, which I thought made an interesting change. It doesn’t make it bad when normal service was resumed, but I thought it was interesting while it lasted.

So, to summarise – I loved this one, that should be clear, and I’m looking forward to getting my grubby little hands on Bloodstone, the new Athelstan, once Amazon manage to get a copy in stock…

As for the other two authors – I was disappointed no-one else seems to have read them, as I was hoping for someone to defend them, telling me I’d picked the wrong one to start off with. I’ll get round to revisiting both at some point, but there are others to try first – Peter Tremayne and Alys Clare for starters, and revisit Ariana Franklin, the other writer who’s really impressed me so far in the genre. Oh, and lots and lots of Paul Doherty…

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
This entry was posted in Brother Athelstan, Historical Mysteries, Locked Rooms and Impossible Murders, Paul Doherty, Paul Harding. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Anger of God by Paul Harding aka Paul Doherty

  1. Oh, and I’ll just add – the motive for the theft of the bodyparts from London Bridge is brilliant. Couldn’t be done in a modern day mystery but makes perfect sense.

  2. Cheers mate. Looks like another reason to think about getting a Kindle! And time to start writing to Father Christmas twice a day …

  3. TomCat says:

    Ah, I see that you’re still undeterred in your unholy crusade to infect this part of the blogosphere with the Paul Doherty bug and as a result his books continue to besiege my to-be-read pile. I was planning to finish-off the Judge Amerotke series, one more book to go, but last week I bought my second Hugh Corbett novel (the first one I read was a blast, but ended with a cliffhanger) and now I have to decide between the two – not to mention your continues enticing reviews of the Brother Athelstan mysteries.

    I hope you can live with this weight resting on your conscience… if you have one! ;)

  4. Oh, I can live with myself…

    In fact, I’m trying to make a slight change of focus on my blog – it seems that a lot of my fellow bloggers – you guys, Patrick et al have the Golden Age well and truly covered, so I’m trying to go back to the original intention of my blog and find present-day writers who are writing classic mysteries.

    I’ll still pop into the classics from time to time (especially Queen and Carr), and try and keep me away from Doherty’s books, but I’m trying to change the focus a little. Let’s see how long I can keep that up for…

  5. TomCat says:

    Well, our blogs have been mixed bags of GAD and Neo/Post-GAD, and the authors from the latter category have been distracting me from giving my full, undivided attention to the ones in the former – so don’t give up on the GAD reviews. I have enough diversions as it is!

  6. John says:

    This was a good one! I forgot I had read it until I read this review. Then I went to my shelves and voila! – there it was. Most of the Doherty books I own are paperback but (bragging moment here) my copy of THE ANGER OF GOD is the only UK hardcover 1st edition signed by Doherty that I own.

  7. Very jealous – but more that most of your books are in paperback. I’m a bit of an ordered bookshelf kind of person and was far more irked than was necessary when, after my mass Abebooks spree, virtually every Doherty series I possess has a hardback copy in the middle of the series. It’s just not right!

    Seriously, I’m keeping an eye out for possible signings of Bloodstone, the new Athelstan, but I’m really not sure how big a print-run it’s getting. I might just send off for a signed copy instead.

  8. Pingback: By Murder’s Bright Light by Paul Harding aka Paul Doherty | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

  9. Pingback: My Kindle – A Review and Some Recommendations | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

  10. Pingback: The Puzzly – The ISOTCM Book of the Month – April 2012 « In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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