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STRONG AS DEATH by Sharan Newman


by Sharan Newman

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-86179-6
Publisher: Forge

 This fourth in a series, set in the 12th century (The Wandering Arm, 1995, etc.), finds scholarly heroine Catherine LeVendeur, once a novice nun, now married to Scottish nobleman Edgar, on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela--hoping her prayers for a healthy child (after two miscarriages) will be answered. It's a motley group that sets out from France on the months-long journey over the Pyrenees to Spain. In addition to Abbot Peter and his helpers, Brothers James and Rigaud, are four aging knights--Norbet, Hugh, Rufus, and Gaucher- -who fought the Saracens decades before and are returning now to retrieve a buried treasure; the prostitute Mondete, ever cloaked head to toe, who rejects all friendly overtures; the wealthy widow Grisselle, accompanied by maid and guards, who's ostensibly fulfilling her late husband's mission; Catherine's merchant father Hubert, born Jewish, who's a secret practitioner of the faith; his brother Eliazer, nephew Solomon, and numerous others. By journey's end, five are dead--murdered; a long-hidden chapter in the life of Catherine's family has been uncovered; and Catherine's life has literally hung by a thread as the killer is unmasked. A clutter of subplots; repetitive chronicles of hardships and discomforts great and small; the coyly described sex life of Catherine and Edgar; and frequently leaden dialogue make for a meticulously researched but long, wearying journey--for the reader as well as the pilgrim.