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