In the early summer of 1379, London is recovering from the rigours of the harshest winter in human memory. The court has moved back to its palaces at Westminster and Sheen and the seething discontent amongst the London poor has subsided. Sir John Cranston, coroner of the city, is invited to a great banquet at the Regent's palace on the Thames, and at the banquet his skills in resolving so many foul murders are highly praised by the Regent. He is trapped into a wager with Signior Gian Galeazzo, Lord of Cremona, who challenges him to resolve a certain murder mystery within the space of two weeks. Men have been found dead in the scarlet chamber of one of Cremona's manors. They have no mark upon them; they have neither drunk nor eaten poison; there are no secret passageways or entrances to the room. And they all have awful expressions of terror upon their faces. Realizing that his reputation and future wealth now rest upon the solving of this mystery, Cranston seeks the help of his faithful secretarius Brother Athelstan. However, Athelstan has problems of his own. At St Erconwald's, during renovation of the sanctuary, a skeleton has been unearthed. There is consternation amongst the parishioners, but this soon turns to religious hysteria when a man is miraculously healed of an infected arm whilst leaning in prayer against the skeleton's coffin. Athelstan watches helplessly as his parish church attracts not only well-meaning pilgrims but all the religious hucksters and swindlers in London's underworld. Meanwhile, there are sinister influences at work at the great chapter of Dominican Friars being held at Blackfriars. One friar has died in mysterious circumstances and another has disappeared. Sir John Cranston and Athelstan are called in to investigate, and are drawn into the labyrinthine politics of 14th-century theological debate, as more horrible murders follow...
Paul Harding - PC Doherty
Classic Crime Fiction
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