A purported fragment of the True Cross stained with the blood of Christ is cursed by its Arab keeper, providing centuries of mysterious deaths for familiar detectives to solve.
In 1194, Robert Blundus, Devonshire dealer in relics, is attacked and murdered, and investigator Crowner John must work his way through a thicket of false accusations to save his mistress. The priceless relic, which is said to kill any unauthorized party who touches it, is sent on to Tewkesbury Abbey to appear next in 1269, when William Falconer solves the death of an Oxford monk with the help of the Templar, who swears to protect the relic and prevent any future deaths. By 1323, his protection has evidently expired, and Sir Baldwin must solve several murders in Exeter. When the relic pops up 30 years later in Cambridge, Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael take their turn at solving more mysterious deaths as a contentious scholarly debate rages around them. The relic surfaces once more when William Shakespeare asks player Nick Revill to buy back one of his early plays from a dealer who’s also offering the relic for sale. Finally, a raven takes matters into his own beak and the relic disappears—until its final resting place is revealed in modern times.
The round-robin formula isn’t new, of course, but the curse neatly links the mostly medieval mysteries.