A Dominican friar well-versed in puzzles must solve a locked-room murder.
John of Gaunt has managed to quell the rebellion of 1381, and his nephew Richard II sits upon a throne coveted by many noble lords. As London seethes with revolutionaries, thieves, whores, and murderers, Martha, the housekeeper of St. Benet’s, finds the doors of the ancient church locked from the inside. Breaking in, the curate and others find both the priest and a retainer of the powerful Lord of Arundel stabbed to death, a large amount of coin missing, and the corpse of Simon Makepeace’s mother. Makepeace, a vicious murderer known as the Flesher, who heads the worst gang in London, is furious about the double loss of his mother and his gold, which was kept hidden in the church. Back in his own parish, Brother Athelstan is informed by his housekeeper, Benedicta, of her own strange discovery: the embalmed bodies of the husband and son of Margo, a recently deceased widow, seated at a table in the hidden cellar of her cottage. Athelstan, who’s long helped powerful coroner Sir John Cranston solve crimes (The Herald of Hell, 2016, etc.), joins him now to solve the locked-church murder. They soon realize that the two mysterious discoveries are related by more than mystery. Margo’s family were archers who had served with Sir John on a special mission to claim the Rose Casket and its contents of precious stones known as the Twelve Apostles as reparations from France. Their vessel was attacked, probably by the Flesher, and sunk, and the great treasure vanished, though rumors of its reappearance abound. Both Sir John’s and Athelstan’s skills are stretched to the limit as they work to solve several crimes, recover the treasure, and somehow bring down the powerful Flesher.
A clever mystery neatly woven into a historically accurate rendering of life in a truly hellish London.