In the winter of 1379, a sea of troubles besets England. French privateers are attacking the towns along the south coast and rumours are rife that the French fleet will enter the Thames and threaten London itself. Sir John Cranston, the portly, wine-loving Coroner of the City, also has his problems. Not only does he have to sit in court and listen to allegations of witchcraft but he is puzzled by a skilful felon who is burgling the houses of wealthy merchants around Cheapside. Cranston's clerk, the Dominican monk, Athelstan, priest of St Erconwald's, is preparing a mystery play - and trying to placate the powerful members of his parish council, all of whom want to play God. Nevertheless, these mundane concerns soon pale into insignificance when an English flotilla of warships drops anchor in the Thames, particularly the ship God's Bright Light. Its piratical captain William Roffel died mysteriously just before the ship returned to port, and stranger things soon occur: during its first night in the Thames, the entire watch of the warship disappears but no one can discover what happened. Later, Roffel's corpse is dug up and ghoulishly placed in the sanctuary chair of the church where he was buried. At the same time in Southwark, Sir Henry Ospring, who was journeying to London to meet Roffel, is viciously stabbed to death in a tavern chamber - and his squire, Nicholas Ashby, blamed for the murder, seeks sanctuary in St Erconwald's. Sir John and Brother Athelstan are summoned to resolve the mysteries on board the ill-omened warship, and search out the truth behind Sir Henry's death. In the course of their investigations they discover scandal, sexual misdemeanours, murder and even treason - and find themselves in the thick of a bloody battle on the Thames.
Paul Harding - PC Doherty
Classic Crime Fiction
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