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The Nicholas Feast
Gil Cunningham series, Book 2

by Pat McIntosh

      The Nicholas Feast opens with young lawyer Gil Cunningham preparing to don the "ridiculous garments" of his degree at his betrothedís home before going to the ceremonies of the title at his old school, Glasgow University. Before he leaves, a visitor asks him to carry a package to one of the current students. Gilís agreeable, which is more than can be said for the lad himself, William Irvine. Still, for all his being just another student, the longer the feast and all the events around it continue, the more Irvine seems central to all of it. Up to and including murder.

When a body is found, Gil, fresh from his success in the first book (The Harperís Quine, also reviewed on and well known at the university, is the obvious choice to investigate. Itís not all compliments and honor. The deceased was a Montgomery relation. And, while Gil notes that "The Montgomerys have killed no Cunninghams for at least six months... that I know of,"† the threats arenít long in coming when they hear about the murder and whoís investigating it.

Thatís one of the more interesting things about this series. You read Scots history and of course you hear about the clans. The interactions in these books make it clear what they meant at a very personal level. This isn't just a matter of who's related to who based on what last name they bear, or which pattern tartan they wear. Life changing events could be based on nothing more than hearing the name of the person in front of you. The clans werenít inherently evil in the same way, but thereís some analogy to modern gangs and gang warfare, where a name is enough to get you killed by people who are strangers with no other reason to wish you ill and that same name decides who you talk to, do business with, or even marry.

There are a number of subplots filling out the story, much as in real life. Gilís mother is not reconciled to his changed plans in life and an engaging wolfhound puppy romps through the investigation and life outside of it, doing its best to help turn both into chaos.

Once again Pat McIntosh offers a compulsively readable story filled with memorable characters, set in a richly depicted place and time.† These are what historical mysteries are supposed to be about, but even more than that theyíre simply great fun to read.

Highly recommended.

The Book

Soho Constable
October 2008
Trade Paperback
Historical Mystery [Glasgow, Scotland 1492]
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2009
© 2009