FFB: Satan in St. Mary’s

This is the 73rd in my series of forgotten books

Satan in St. Mary’s by Paul Doherty © 1986, Headline 1990 paperback – historical mystery – first in the series featuring Hugh Corbett

After reading more than one review of Doherty’s historical mysteries, one of which compared them favorably to Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books, which are favorites of mine, I decided to try one, and this is the first in the series featuring Hugh Corbett, a clerk of the King’s Bench, that King being Edward I, son of Henry III. Corbett fought with the English forces in the Welsh wars of five years earlier.

It is 1284. Lawrence Duket, a goldsmith, kills Ralph Crepyn, a moneylender, then flees to London’s St. Mary Le Bow church for sanctuary. The next day Duket is found hanged inside the locked (from both inside and out) church, an apparent suicide.

Bishop Burnell, Chancellor for King Edward I, is suspicious of this death and  assigns Hugh Corbett to investigate. Burnell fears that the suicide is really the murder in retaliation of the killing of a member of The Pentangle, a Satanist, black- arts-practicing social-political group intent on the overthrow of the King and downfall of the English Church. This group may become a central part of the anti-royal Populares party and pose an even larger threat.

Corbett is threatened and attacked while probing the “suicide” which was really murder. The Satanist group seems to be centered at The Mitre, a tavern owned by the beautiful Alice atte Bowe, with whom Corbett falls in love. The reader can see this is a Very Bad Idea, but Corbett is blind to his own foolishness in this, and other instances, causing him to do some pretty dumb things. Still, the mystery is neatly done and Doherty’s expertise in the historical facts of the time give a good sense of the sights, sounds and smells (sometimes too much of the latter for this reader) of medieval London.

In the afterword, the author tells us the book is based on a murder which did occur in 1284.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in books, Friday Forgotten Book, mystery, Personal Opinion, reading, Review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to FFB: Satan in St. Mary’s

  1. A locked room historical mystery. That alone peaks an interest. This one goes onto the possibles list.

  2. Medieval London was a nasty place. I enjoy historical mysteries. I’m slowly working my way through Michael Jecks’ Knights Templar series (30 books).

  3. The cover reminded me of Ellis Peters’ books. I imagine that might have been intentional.

  4. TomCat says:


    I’m part of the band of bloggers who’ve been clogging the feeds of the blogosphere with reviews of Paul Doherty’s historical mysteries, which began only a few months ago, but it’s good to observe that this little crusade of ours is already reaping converts. 😉

    I also recommend the ancient Egyptian series, especially The Anubis Slayings, which is the best book I have read from him thus far – and has a clever locked room scenario to boot!

  5. Richard says:

    Randy, this is the first in the series, and certainly worth a look. Part way in I wasn’t certain I was enjoying it, at one point it seemed the author was a little too fond of describing the stench and misery, certainly compared to the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, but by the end I liked it enough to plan on reading the next one. Certainly an interesting character, and period in English history. George mentions the Jecks books, and I’ve read the first in that series and thought it very good.

  6. Richard says:

    George, I’m guessing this series gets better as it goes along, that’s the case with most series, and I’ll try another, just as I will read, when I can get to it, the second Jecks book, after your recommendation to read the first.

  7. Richard says:

    Charles, I’m sure you are right. I’ve seen a later edition that had a different and less attractive cover, but most of the series covers are similar to this one. You may have to do some searching unless you want to order a used copy from the U.K.

    Tomcat, I’ve seen your postings on Friday Forgotten Books, and it was the one on this book and the following in the series that got me interested in trying one, so yes, your efforts have paid off.

  8. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Charles, yes it was intentional – same publisher I believe.

    My favorite historical series recently was one George recommended – C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, set during Henry VIII’s reign.

  9. Richard says:

    Jeff, goodness, another one to try. Where will I try the time. Hopefully I can find one of those – the first one – on BookSwap.

  10. John says:

    I liked this one, but I shied away from the Corbett series in favor of his other more colorful characters. Of Doherty’s many books I think the Brother Athelstan ones are the best with the Canterbury Tales themes series running a close second.

    To Randy – Doherty wrote numerous locked room or impossible crime mysteries all in historical settings. Added to the fun is that most books have several impossible crimes with different criminals responsible. One of the most ingenious (and gruesome) was in a book I reviewed for FFB in September — THE GODLESS MAN set during the reign of Alexander the Great.

  11. Yvette says:

    Don’t know if this is my kind of book, I’m not convinced I like the medieval setting though I have read Ariana Franklin’s books set in medieval England and enjoyed those. But I still like to read about the possibility of reading another medieval series. (If that makes any sense.) 🙂

    So this goes on the possible list for me as well.

  12. Todd Mason says:

    I’ve still yet to get to Peters, with everyone’s recs over the years…

  13. Richard says:

    Todd, I’d read the first two or three Cadfael books before I saw an episode of the Mystery! interpretation. I just couldn’t see Derrick Jacoby as the character, so I didn’t watch any more. As to the books, it’s a favorite series, and Virgin In The Ice is a favorite book in it.

  14. Richard says:

    Yvette, have you tried the Jecks or Ellis Peters? Both are good, with the edge, for me, going to Peters’ Cadfael books.

  15. Richard says:

    John, I’ve stayed away for the Canterbury books as much because I’d have to re-read the original again to remember the characters better than anything else. Not that doing so would be an odious task, just a matter of time, since I prefer the verse version to the prose one.

  16. “a Satanist, black- arts-practicing social-political group intent on the overthrow of the King and downfall of the Church of England. ”
    The downfall of the Church of England. in 1283?

  17. Richard says:

    faulconbridge, I should have typed “English Church”, not “Church of England”. They wanted to replace the accepted religion with Satanism. Thanks for the catch.

  18. Pingback: Friday’s Forgotten Books, November 18, 2011 | My Blog

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