In December 1378, as London prepares for Christmas, a great frost has the city in its icy grip; even the Thames is frozen from bank to bank. Murder, revenge and treachery also make their presence felt, for an ancient grudge is about to be settled in a city seething with discontent. The Constable of the Tower of London, Sir Ralph Whitton, is found murdered in a cold bleak chamber in the North Bastion. The door is still locked from the inside and guarded by trusted retainers - so how did the assassins slip across a frozen moat and climb the sheer wall of the fortress to commit such a dreadful crime? And why was Sir Ralph so terrified of the message he received a few days before his death — a crude drawing of a ship and a flat sesame seed cake? The Dominican friar, Athelstan, and Sir John Cranston, the fat, wine-loving coroner of the city of London, are appointed to investigate these mysteries. They soon discover Sir Ralph's murder is only the first in a series of macabre killings which has its roots in a terrible act of betrayal committed many years previously. Athelstan and Cranston also have their own personal problems. What is wrong with Lady Maude, Cranston's usually ever-patient wife? Why does she keep secret assignations and refuse to talk to Sir John? And Brother Athelstan's peace of mind has been disturbed. He has not only to cope with the petty rivalries of his parishioners as they prepare for Christmas but also the blasphemous violation of graves in the cemetery around his parish church of St Erconwald. Someone is stealing corpses and Athelstan fears that the Black Magicians, the Lords of the Cemeteries and Masters of the Gibbet, are using this consecrated ground for their own macabre purposes...
Paul Harding - PC Doherty
Classic Crime Fiction
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