Second in a series set in 14th-century London (after The Nightingale Gallery, 1992) featuring John Cranston, the city's loud-mouthed, wine-swilling, softhearted Lord Coroner, and his clever aide Friar Athelstan, of down-at-heel St. Erconwald's church. Together they confront a series of murders centered on the Tower of London, whose chief constable, Sir Ralph Whitton, is the first victim. Warned by a cryptic drawing, Sir Ralph had moved into a nearly inaccessible cell atop the tower; but he was found, nonetheless, behind a locked door with his throat slashed. Three more gruesome deaths follow--all of the victims onetime soldier companions of Bartholomew Burghgesh, whom they had robbed and left to die in foreign seas 15 years earlier. Athelstan, beset by grave robbers at his church and his forbidden longing for a beautiful parishioner, eventually figures out the unoriginal locked-room scenario and gets his killer. Despite its medieval trappings and reams of historical detail of the city's fetid alleys and miserable inhabitants, Red Slayer remains hackneyed and inert, its cleric-hero a pale echo of Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael. Run-of-the-mill doings in fancy disguise.