London, in the summer of 1380, and Edwin Chapler, clerk of the Office of the Green Wax, is pulled from the river, dead after receiving a nasty bash on the head. On the same day, notorious money-lender Bartholomew Drayton is found with a crossbow bolt through his heart – despite having locked himself inside his impenetrable strongroom. Sir John Cranston and his secretarius, Brother Athelstan, are enlisted by the Regent, John of Gaunt, to investigate. But when more clerks start to die, with cryptic messages left near their bodies, can they find the assassin before things escalate out of control?
Another briefer review, as it’s another of the multitude that I read while lazing around the pool. But you can probably guess what I’m going to say about yet another Paul Doherty book, especially a Brother Athelstan mystery. Or can you?
Well, yes for the most part. It’s an entertaining read, and Cranston, Athelstan and the full supporting cast are very pleasant company. And the plot rattles along at a fair old pace. We get at least six murders squeezed into 300 pages and yet it doesn’t feel rushed. And I’d much rather have that than the drawn-out 500 page affairs that can be common these days.
But… it has to be said, this is weaker than most of the Athelstan books, plot-wise. The locked room, while not being a copy, is rather close to a classic novel with a similar set-up. It’s different enough… but only just. And as for the identity of the assassin, I found it rather obvious, which is actually uncommon in Doherty’s work.
Overall though, it’s a weaker entry in an excellent series, but that still makes it a great read. Highly recommended, but read one of the others first.