An engaging historical mystery…
I am a big fan of historical mysteries, and I have had my eye on EM Powell’s books for a while. But I had not yet read any of them. So I was happy to be offered a review copy of the most recent title in Powell’s Aelred Barling/Hugo Stanton series, The Canterbury Murders. I liked it a lot.
Powell creates an engaging blend of historical figures (Henry II, Thomas Becket, Archbishop Richard, William of Sens and others) and fictional characters like Aelred, Hugo and Elena. One of the historical foundations of her story is the fire that burned part of Canterbury Cathedral in 1174, and the subsequent reconstruction efforts, which led to the presence of the stone mason who is the first victim. And as Powell mentions in her excellent historical note at the end, the fire at Canterbury bore a sad resemblance to the recent 2019 burning of Notre Dame, in Paris. Pictures of that fire were in my mind as I read the first chapter.
The Canterbury Murders is the third in its series, and I had a little bit of difficulty at the beginning understanding and relating to the relationship between the King’s Clerk, Barling, and his assistant, Stanton. But as I read further into the book, I got comfortable with the characters, and enjoyed the interplay between the two very different men. As far as the murders, the plot is solid, with plenty of red herrings, and I was kept guessing until the end. (By the way, also see the end of Powell’s historical note for a nice bit of info about herrings – red or otherwise…)
All-in-all, I enjoyed The Canterbury Murders, and I’ll definitely be going back to read the first couple of books in the series. Please keep in mind that I reserve five-star ratings for only maybe one in thirty or forty books I read, so four stars is a solid “read this book” rating from me. And my thanks again to Crosshaven Press and NetGalley for the review copy.