London, June 1381. If you know your history, you’ll know that this wasn’t the place to be. The Great Uprising, otherwise known as The Peasants’ Revolt, has finally started but while Brother Athelstan fears for his friends and parishioners, some of whom are well-established members of the Upright Men, the force behind the rebellion, he finds himself called to Blackfriars by his religious order. A delegation has arrived from the Pope to investigate a request from King Richard II – the sanctification of Richard’s ancestor, Edward II – a divisive King, at best.
No sooner has he arrived, however, and the leader of the delegation is found stabbed to death. Despite being a strong individual, he appeared not to defend himself from the attack. Oh, and his chamber was about as locked as it could possibly be. Of course.
As the city descends into chaos, Athelstan finds himself the target of a ruthless murderer. But he has more to resolve than just the murder(s). In the midst of the carnage, it seems that his parishioners have disappeared into thin air…
The fifteenth outing for Brother Athelstan and John Cranston and the Great Revolt is finally here. Since Athelstan’s return from his eight year hiatus in Bloodstone, the threat of the Upright Men has been growing and growing, and the Revolt is finally here in all its bloody glory. I’ve always praised Paul’s ability to bringing the medieval world to vivid life. I defy anyone to top the sequence from the second chapter of the book as Athelstan and Cranston make their way from Blackfriars to St Erconwald’s. I’m writing this review about a week after finishing the book and some of the imagery is still with me.
There’s little to say about Paul’s books that I haven’t said before, and regular readers know that how this review is going to go. It’s a near-perfect meld of classic impossible crime and the historical genre. To be fair, there’s a little more of the historical events this time – understandably, of course – as we see a number of the major beats in the events in London, admittedly with Cranston taking a fairly major role in proceedings, but the mystery is never neglected. The locked room idea is hardly original, although the reason for the lack of defensive wounds is rather wonderful and certainly something I haven’t seen before.
My only worry? That now the Revolt is here, that the little monk – sorry, friar will disappear from our pages again. Let’s hope not, but even if he does, Doherty’s other stalwart, Sir Hugh Corbett, is back from his six year holiday in The Dark Serpent, which… oh, I’ll tell you about that when it comes out. In the meantime, this one is, obviously, Highly Recommended.
STOP PRESS: Paul’s announced in his newsletter that this isn’t the end for the good Brother, and he’ll be back in A Pilgrimage Of Murder. Hurrah!