The Serpent Amongst The Lilies by Paul Doherty

The Serpent Amongst The LiliesIn the reign of Henry VI, the lands in France that were taken by his father, Henry V, are being taken back by the French, under the leadership of Jehanne D’Arc, a young peasant girl being led by visions from God. For both military and religious reasons, this troubles Cardinal Beaufort and he sends his man, Matthew Jankyn, to infiltrate the French forces and get close to the Maid.

This is exactly what he does, following the Maid from victories to her eventual capture. But as he grows close to Jehanne, not only does he become convinced there is more to her story than it seems, but it becomes clear that she knows more about him that he’d like. And if the French find an undercover Englishman in their midst…

There are rare things in this world. White Rhinos. Good films starring Steven Seagal. And books by Paul Doherty that I don’t particularly care for. This is one of those things…

I’d been saving this one, as (I think) it’s the last of the medieval Doherty books that I was yet to read. It’s an early book, from before his usual style kicked in. The earlier books – The Death Of A King and The Whyte Harte – are of a similar structure, following a character as they investigate the circumstances around an historical event (the deaths of Edward II and Richard II respectively). The difference with those books is that the events being looked at were in the past from the point of view of the investigation and there was a clear focus. Here, we see the events of the Maid’s life as they occur and there’s little story beyond that. Jankyn is basically our eyes and not a lot else.

This isn’t a mystery in any sense of the word and I think you have to be interested in finding out about Joan of Arc to get a lot out of it. Any author that’s written 100+ books must have a clunker in there somewhere and here it is – just didn’t work for me. Never mind, there’s at least two more Brother Athelstan books on the way this year, along with the sequel to Roseblood. Hurrah. But this one is for the completists only.

This review is Book 5 of my attempt at Readathon UK for the school where I work – ten books between 6th Feb and 5th March. If you want to make a donation to the children’s charities that they support, then please visit their Just Giving page.

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7 comments

  1. Well it had to happen sooner or later I suppose – as you say, seems inevitable with someone who publishes at such a prodigious rate! The one decent Seagal movie is probably EXECUTIVE DECISION, because he is really supporting Kurt Rusell and gets a very good exit too

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  2. You have to admit that after playing an unwitting role in the Maid of Orleans’ capture, the plot Jankyn gets involved in to free her is a mysterious one. The ultimate question – did she die at the stake at Rouen, or did she escape? – is a most intriguing one. I would bet that a lot of readers who enjoy historical fiction would appreciate this selection. Just because it didn’t meet your personal expectations doesn’t mean it automatically should be dubbed “a clunker.”

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    • But as a mystery, it fails. The plot happens very late in the day, and while it may be intriguing, there isn’t enough time to dwell on it.

      And my reviews express my opinion on the book. And, given Paul’s usual high standard of historical mysteries, this is, in my opinion, “a clunker”. But it’s good to see that other people enjoyed it.

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