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The Elixir of Death
Crowner John series #10

by Bernard Knight

      Ladies' man Sir John de Wolfe has his hands full in this tenth case for the Devon coroner when his mistress, Hilda, loses her husband in an unusual way. Being lost at sea is a normal way to die for a sailor, but when his boat appears wrecked and with all hands dead, foul play is suspected. Then a local knight is found gruesomely murdered, and villagers near an old ruined castle talk of ghostly figures seen flitting through the trees. Can this all have something to do with alchemy, and what part does John's hated brother-in-law have to play?

You know when a long-running series has really put down roots when it changes from being just another adventure to being half-full of the doings of the leading characters, and all the more enjoyable for being so. Although there is a case to solve, a lot of it is already made plain so it is up to the reader to sit back and watch the detectives find out whodunit in a Columbo fashion. John juggles his mistresses, rows with his wife, and enjoys a pint with his mates in the pub, while Thomas is reinstated as a priest and Hilda goes off to have an adventure on her own. There is plenty of local colour to enjoy and some of the colourful politics of the 1190s to get tangled up in and yes, another thoroughly enjoyable story. Everything here is well-rounded and well- realized. The characters seem like old friends that I, for one, would really like to meet. In short, the series has risen above itself and become a superior soap opera in the very best sense of the term. Highly addictive, and may it never be televised....

The Book

Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)
April 2006
Historical Crime [1195 Exeter and the South Hams, Devon, UK]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006