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AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE by Susanna Gregory

AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE

By Susanna Gregory

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14752-X
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Someone who evidently doesn't think the Black Death is doing a thorough enough job mowing down the population is winnowing the whores and scholars of 1350 Cambridge. The latest victims are prostitute Isobel Watkins, her throat cut just steps outside the city gate, and a nameless friar who was evidently poisoned in the middle of his forbidden examination of the university chest--a chest normally devoted to the secret Cambridge archives, but in which his cramped body has now become the most prominent exhibit. Ordered against his will to disinter the university's late historian, Nicholas of York, and check his body for poison, Dr. Matthew Bartholomew, trainer of physicians, and his companion, Brother Michael, soon find (1) rumors of three rival covens contending for the loyalties of the surprisingly superstitious holy men running the university; (2) another victim who's neither priest nor whore (the body count will rise still further before day is done); (3) a ghoulishly unexpected discovery inside Nicholas's coffin; and (4) a surprisingly modern conspiracy beneath all the elaborate period trappings. This first in a series from the pseudonymous Gregory, making her US debut, is modeled as a Cambridge Name of the Rose: It's complex and eventful, but so cluttered with plotters, horrors, and homicides that it ends up being curiously ungripping. Wait till next century.