P.C. Doherty, writing as Harding, launches yet another historical mystery series, this one featuring a medieval coroner of Falstaffian girth and deplorable manners, Sir John Cranston, and his able assistant, Brother Athelstan, a guilt-riddled Dominican, who takes careful notes of crime scenes, interrogations, and so forth when Sir John is sleeping off a tankard or two too many. In their introductory case, they're sent to investigate a murder/suicide: Sir Thomas, it seems, was poisoned by his servant Brampton, who then, in remorse, killed himself. But if that's so, why are so many others who were present that night also soon found dead? Has any of it to do with the affair between Sir Thomas's widow and his brother? The death of a sodomized page? The blackmailing of the young king's regent, who was conniving for the throne? Sir John and Athelstan painstakingly re-create Sir Thomas's death scene to wrest a confession from the guilty--and reveal a locked-room scenario as cunning as any ever devised by John Dickson Carr. Clever puzzle, bustling atmosphere, and one hopes the curmudgeonly Sir John will be toned down and made more likable in future endeavors.