Friday, November 7, 2008

Murder, Mayhem and Historical London: Two New Mysteries

Okay, enough lamenting the passage of hatred and onto better stuff. I've had the marvelous good fortune to read not one, ladies and gentlemen, but two excellent historical mysteries recently and I thought I'd pass on the good news.

In his fourth outing, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is up against a gruesome serial killer intent on bringing forth the prophecies of Revelation through a series of Biblical-inspired killings. Called in to attend to the bizarre case of a young boy imprisoned for madness and suspected of suffering from demonic possession, when Shardlake discovers the slain body of his best friend in a frozen fountain, he is once again caught between the machinations of the Tudor court, where Henry VIII has set his sights on a reluctant Catherine Parr, his own waning spirituality, and the brutality of existence in Tudor London. As always, Sansom paints a realistic portrait of an era where power and wealth are the ultimate prize and life is easily disposed of; his attention to detail conjures a time both vastly different and eerily reminiscent of our own, a world where religious fundamentalism threatens to uproot the foundations of reason and men struggle to come to terms with the meaning of justice and faith. Excellent!
(I read the UK edition of REVELATION, which is published by McMillan. The US edition - pictured here - will be released on 2/5/2009).

VEIL OF LIES by Jeri Westerson
In Ms Westerson's debut in a genre dubbed Medieval Noir, Crispin Guest, a former knight who has lost everything due to an ill-advised foray into treason and now struggles to make a living as a 'watcher', is hired by a wealthy, eccentric merchant to investigate the possibility that the merchant's nubile wife is an adulteress. What seems at first to be a mundane and quick way for Crispin to make some money quickly twists into a murder case with no obvious culprit or motive, and a frantic search for a holy relic that might possess supernatural powers. As Crispin finds himself falling unwittingly under the spell of the merchant's widow, he grapples with a cabal of sinister foes intent on retrieving the relic for themselves, even at the cost of innocent lives. Ms Westerson presents a vivid portrait of the chaos of medieval London during the rarely-explored reign of Richard II; the vagaries of fate that easily cast people into penury; and of how lies can mask the truth. Crispin is conflicted, flawed and devastatingly sexy; this is a noteworthy addition to the canon and I look forward to Crispin's next outing, to be published by St. Martin's Press in 2009.
(VEIL OF LIES was published on 10/28/08 and is now available in bookstores everywhere. See Jeri's recent guest post here on Historical Boys.)


Lezlie said...

I just love the Matthew Shardlake novels! I can't wait until February! (Well, I can, but you know what I mean.)

I was sad about the proposition there in California. It's so unfair.


J.M. Aucoin said...

I'm stoked for the new Shardlake novel. I've been waiting (impatiently) for the new one to come out. It's been sitting pretty on my Amazon wishlist for some time now. :-D

Clare said...

I love the Matthew Shardlake novels, I have only read 2 so far but, have the other 2 on my TBR pile, sounds like I'm in for a treat!

C.W. Gortner said...

I love the Shardlake novels, too. I'm hoping to entice C.J. to be interviewed here :) Of the four, my favorite so far is DARK FIRE but I really have enjoyed all of them.