1381, 'The Great Revolt' is over, the rebels crushed. The rebellion has been put down but the aftermath is a horrendous sea of treachery, uncertainty and fear. The Upright Men, the Reapers, the Earthworm Men dead and scattered.
'The scaffolds .... heavy with cadavers, the lumbering execution carts and corpse barrows a common sight. The quartered remains of traitors, all tarred and bloodied, decorated a forest of stakes on every available gateway, but the revolt was definitely over.'
Doherty is just so fantastic with his descriptions. I am constantly in awe of his use of language. The images he produces are vivid and colorful and stay with you.
Brother Athelstan, Dominican friar and parish priest of St Erconwald’s in Southwark, is to lead his parish council on a pilgrimage to St Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury 'to give thanks for the wellbeing of [his] congregation after the Great Revolt.’ As the story continues a host of others, seemingly more political than not, join the party. Included are a Spanish friar ordered to do penance, members of John of Gaunt's Secret Chancery, a doctor and his family, and others collected as the time draws near.
Not quite Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, but if you look closely just as complicated and becoming more so as a string of assassinations begin to dot the landscape. The garrotted corpses bear the message ‘Lord Azrael greets you’. A further puzzle for our dedicated friar to pursue. Indeed Athelstan himself finds his beloved one-eyed tomcat Bonaventure with the grisly 'corpse of a magpie, a garrotte string wrapped around its throat' accompanied by that message.
This particular murderer arouses Althestan's anger on more than one occasion.
The deciphering of the cause of these murders is as usual a wonderfully wrought masterpiece of deduction and sleuthing on the part of our beloved astute Dominican priest.
As Doughtery points out in a his Author's Note, 'Sir John Cranston and Brother Athelstan will have their hands full in resolving the murderous mayhem which became a hallmark of their time.' That mayhem is so obvious throughout Doherty's rich depiction of the times.
I look forward to more from the Friar and his companions.
A NetGalley ARC