Doomsday Series, No 5
St. Martins’ Press
1998/ ISBN 0312180217
Historical Mystery/ Sir Ralph Delchard/Gervase Bret / England-Middle
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: The search began at dawn.
The Royal Commission, including Sir Ralph Delchard and his bride
Golde, travel to Canterbury in order to settle a land dispute between
the archbishop and the prior of St. Augustine’s Abbey. Murder
takes precedence over land; particularly the murder of a 17-year-old
girl found with a snake bite on her neck and an apple, from which
one bite was taken, in her hand. Followed shortly but the poisoning
of a kind monk, Delchard and Gervase find themselves combating a
cunning and dangerous adversary.
Books that include maps and one of Canterbury in the 11th Century
are my kind of thing. I also appreciate books that make me think
about things such as the difference between perception and reality,
and allow me to learn—in this case about the Gnostics. Unfortunately,
those were the major highlights of this entry into a series that
is, otherwise, one of my favorites.
There were some definitely shortcomings here, including a small
portent and a large coincidence. While I have generally felt Marston’s
dialogue conveyed the period, here it seemed stilted. The descriptions
of the action scenes felt awkward and less exciting than they should
I have loved the characters of Ralph, Gervase and the two priests
who accompany them, Canon Hubert and Brother Simon. Part of the
reason why I’ve felt the characters worked so well was the
interaction between them. Perhaps some of my disappointment with
this book was that it seemed fragmented due to the union of the
main characters being fragmented. There were very few instances
of them working together.
Don’t misunderstand; I did not hate the book. The story definitely
kept me reading and I was very glad it did. The insight into the
period was strong, as always, and the honesty that any person may
be good or bad, regardless of rank or position, is significant.
In fact, one of the most chilling characters is not the killer.
That element was very effective. Not one to give up on an otherwise
favorite author, I am curious to read the next book in this series.