October 1300, and the warcog, “The Waxman”, captained by one Adam Blackstock, has been terrorising the seas off the coast of South East England. Blackstock has seized the key to untold riches – “The Cloister Map” – but is betrayed by someone close to him. The ship is seized and Blackstock executed – but the map has vanished.
Three years later and Wilhelm Von Paulents, a representative of the Hanseatic League, arrives in Canterbury, claiming to be in possession of the map. Sir Hugh Corbett is sent to try and decode the map – and, of course, divert any treasure found into the coffers of King Edward I, but soon Van Paulents and his entire family are found dead in their house, all of them hanged, despite no sign of a struggle. And why did the murderer leave the map behind?
As the death count mounts, Corbett realises that almost everything that has happened in Canterbury over the last few months is related to the map. But can he outwit a deadly murderer with vengeance on his/her mind?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling down for whatever reason, I reach for my favourite authors. So when recently stricken and feeling very sorry for myself, I grabbed one of my emergency books – my last-but-one Hugh Corbett novel by Paul Doherty. Only one more Corbett and one more Athelstan left on my shelf… They’re going to have to be for real emergencies. Luckily some of the more obscure Doherty series are appearing as ebooks in the next few weeks – some of them so obscure that even I haven’t tracked down a copy of them. Not all of Paul’s 100 books will be available, but it’s not far off… Best of all, two of my favourites of his, the first Alexander the Great series (A Murder In Macedon and A Murder In Thebes) will be available – two cracking mysteries that I prefer to the more recent series.
I digress – The Waxman Murders. But what is there to say that hasn’t been said before. A complex mystery plot that never stands still, with a simple-but-clever almost-impossible murder. Rich history, with Corbett seemingly continuing his tour of southern England, giving us an earlier view of Canterbury than we get from the Kathryn Swinbrooke novels (also coming soon to ebook!). As is often the case with the Corbett mysteries, the author doesn’t need to add in a second plot to pad things out, as these stories are possibly the most involved of Doherty’s mysteries. And yes, the murderer is pretty obvious (well, to me anyway) but there’s a good surprise thrown in for the resolution that I did not see coming.
It’s a shame that Corbett’s sidekick, Ranulf, gets a bit of a back seat in this one, as his plans for his personal progression were a highlight of the preceding novel, but as not much time has passed since then – we’re only a few years from the end of Edward I’s reign, and then Mathilde of Westminster takes over – this is all quite believable that he’d be thinking, rather than acting.
Anyway, as I said, I needed a decent read due to feeling rotten and this fitted the bill perfectly. Highly recommended.
Oops! Forgot to say, this is one of my Medieval Miscreants reviews.