THE WANDERING ARM by Sharan Newman


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 The third in Newman's scholarly series finds onetime novice nun Catherine LeVendeur (The Devil's Door, 1994, etc.) in Saint- Denis, in the throes of painful childbirth that ends with a stillborn daughter. Her aristocratic English husband, Edgar, whose family lands have been taken by the Normans, still seeks a gainful career for his artistic talents. Catherine's merchant father Hubert, who passes as Gentile, had discovered his Jewish heritage in young manhood. His true relationship to his brother Eliazer, a respected Jewish trader in Paris, is known only to some members of the family. Meanwhile, Hubert and Eliazer, partners in business, have become aware of a flourishing trade in precious religious articles stolen from churches in France and abroad. The most sacred of these is the arm of Saint Aldhelm, encased in gold, taken from Salisbury Cathedral in England. The brothers enlist Edgar to come live in Paris with Catherine and, using his skills in gold and silver smithing, to try to pin down the source of the thievery. At the same time, the poisoned body of Natan, a dishonest minor trader, is found in the basement of Eliazer's house, where, it seems, he was having an illicit affair with Lucia, the Gentile maid. In the end it's Lucia who puts an end to a string of going- nowhere incidents, uncovering both the Salisbury reliquary and Natan's killer. An interesting picture of Jewish life in 12th-century Paris, but the story's suspense is fleeting, its plotlines messy. And though Catherine's buoyant persona provides a bit of charm, this is primarily a meticulously researched treat for history buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-85829-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1995


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