Like The Nightingale Gallery , Harding's previous foray into 14th-century London, his new mystery lavishes as much attention on details of the city's filth- and disease-filled landscape as on its inhabitants. This time, coroner Sir John Cranston and his assistant, Brother Athelstan, are summoned to the Tower of London. Sleeping in a locked and guarded room did not save the Tower's constable, a martinet named Sir Ralph Whitton, from having his throat slit. Although Sir John, who is almost permanently in his cups, seems even more distracted than usual, he and Athelstan soon learn that Sir Ralph had been warned that he would be murdered and that the cause may lie buried in the constable's adventure-filled soldiering past. The plot thickens with additional deaths, all possibly linked to Sir Ralph's, while Athelstan is faced with an equally grisly problem at his impoverished church, St. Erconwald's, from whose graveyard corpses are being stolen. A patient and methodical questioner of suspects as well as an acute yet sympathetic observer of people, Brother Athelstan proves himself worthy of the intricate puzzles Harding contrives. (Mar.)
Brother Athelstan, the curate of St. Erconwald's in Southwalk, and Sir John Cranston, the coroner of 1377 London ( The Nightingale Gallery , LJ 4/1/92), investigate a bloody murder in the Tower of London. Once they determine the means of entry to the victim's locked room, they suspect two visiting knights Hospitaler--until the killer strikes again. The Falstaffian Cranston, meanwhile, sorrows over the imagined infidelities of his beloved wife, and Athelstan fidgets over the lovely Benedicta. Harding re-creates a rough-hewn world of rudely vibrant life that will appeal especially to historical fans.
YA-Sir Ralph Whitton, constable of the Tower of London, is discovered in his double-locked, heavily guarded chamber with his throat slit. This is a case for coroner Sir John Cranston and his faithful clerk, Brother Athelstan. Their field of suspects is as large as the number of Tower inhabitants, for Sir Ralph was not dearly beloved. Unraveling the clues takes the sleuths into many of the city's darker corners and gives readers a vivid picture of 14th-century London. The medieval setting and Brother Athelstan's methodical skill in solving the case make the novel a treat for mystery fans.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Brother Athelstan, the worldly fourteenth-century friar with a flair for ferreting out unsavory information, returns to solve a perplexing pair of parallel puzzles. In addition to his arduous duties as curate of the impoverished parish of St. Erconwald's, Athelstan serves as clerk and counselor to bluff and blustery Sir John Cranston, the shrewd Lord Coronor of London. As the redoubtable duo scours the seamy underbelly of London in an effort to expose the vengeful murderer of Sir Ralph Whitton, notoriously unpopular constable of the Tower of London, Athelstan also attempts to snare the grave robber despoiling the remains of corpses buried in St. Erconwald's Cemetery. Suspenseful and evocative of its medieval setting, this mystery is masterful.