THE SERPENTS OF HARBLEDOWN by Edward Marston

THE SERPENTS OF HARBLEDOWN

Vol. V of The Domesday Books
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KIRKUS REVIEW

It’s 11th-century England and King William’s little band of emissaries is on the move again (The Lions of the North, 1996, etc.). This time, they—re on the road to Canterbury to settle a property dispute between the Cathedral, headed by Archbishop Lanfranc, and the Christ Church Priory, whose abbots run the St. Nicholas Leper Hospital in Harbledown, outside the city. Ex- soldier Ralph Delchard, now married to and accompanied by his Golde, the clever young lawyer Gervase Bret, and their entourage arrive in Canterbury just after the discovery of the body of sweet-natured teenager Bertha, who is found dead in shrubbery near the leper hospital, seemingly of a snakebite. Ralph, Golde, and Gervase are lodging with town Reeve Osbern. The Reeve’s wife Eadgyth is inconsolable at the news. So, too, is Bertha’s father Alwin the Sailor, along with many of the lepers at the hospital, to whom she had been an angel of mercy. The young leper Alain is especially distraught. When Ralph and Gervase become suspicious, it’s Alain who helps them prove that strangling, not snakebite, caused Bertha’s death. Not so, according to Helto the Doctor, the Osbern’s family physician. The fatal poisoning, in church, of good-hearted Brother Martin, and the kidnaping of Eadgyth, put Ralph and Gervase, with Alain’s help, on the trail of a merciless killer, even as their original mission ends with surprising ease. Muddied plot lines and a surfeit of political infighting, albeit in clerical robes, don—t help the fifth in this series. But it’s still first-class entertainment for lovers of historical whodunits.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18021-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998




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