A mysterious assassin prowls the narrow alleyways of London. February 1304, and a succession of brutal murders shocks London as it comes to terms with the fall from power of Walter Evesham, Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench. Accused of corruption, Evesham has sought sanctuary to atone for his sins. When Evesham’s clerk is cruelly murdered, and then Evesham himself is discovered dead in his abbey cell, it appears that the Mysterium, a cunning killer brought to justice by Evesham, has returned to wreak havoc. Sir Hugh Corbett is ordered to investigate. Has the Mysterium returned or is another killer imitating his brutal methods? As Corbett traces the ancient sins that hold the key to discovering the killer’s identity he must face his most cunning foe yet.
I do like a mediaeval mystery novel occasionally, and was looking forward to reading this when I discovered it. It wasn’t until I was closing the cover that I realised this was the 17th book in the Hugh Corbett series, making this an ideal novel for those who don’t want to get caught up in yet another long running series.
The characters, both main and minor are written with all the dirt and smell of the middle ages attached to them. So much so, that at times, I almost turned my nose up at some of the imagined odours spilling from the characters in the book. It was almost like ‘scratch and sniff’, the scratch definitely coming from the descriptions of the unhygienic place that London was in the 1300’s. As with most historical novels, the dialogue can sometimes become a little bogged down as the Author tries to recreate the speech patterns of the time, and it was no different in this book; it didn’t take anything away from the characters it just had a tendency to slow things down to the point where I felt as if I were trying to walk through one of those filthy streets.
The novel is a classic ‘locked door’ mystery, but with the slow build up and totally unexpected twists and turns in the plot, it didn’t come across as being stale or yet another reworking of a tried and tested plot line. I enjoyed the fact that when I thought I had everything figured out, something would appear that proved me wrong. At times however, I felt that this book was a bit too over descriptive, and this did dilute my enjoyment of it to a certain degree.
Would I read any of the other books in this series? I don’t really know, but I would recommend them to lover of historical mystery novels.