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Saintly Murders (A medieval mystery featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke) Hardcover – 20 Sep 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press (20 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312269935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312269937
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 898,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Another evocative historical whodunit steeped in suspense, sexual tension, and authentic period detail...a riveting installment in an outstanding series of medieval mysteries." --"Booklist "on "The Merchant of Death ""Kathryn is an appealing heroine, a medieval Jane Tennison, and this quick read is chock-full of recondite information from ancient coins to homeopathic cures." --"St. Petersburg Times "on "The Merchant of Death""An unusual and extremely entertaining historical mystery." --"Knoxville News-Sentinel "on a "Shrine of Murders""Another complex and finely tuned puzzle plot, plus rich historical detail." --"Ellery Queen "on "The Eye of God""Recommended for some grand reading and learning." --"Armchair Detective "on "The Eye of God""Solid work from a skilled hand." --"Library Journal "on "The Book of Shadows"

About the Author

C.L. Grace is the pseudonym of P.C. Doherty, author of four previous mysteries featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke as well as several other mystery series. He holds a doctorate from Oxford and lives in Essex, England.

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Death had come for Roger Atworth, the former soldier now a member of the Friars of the Order of the Sack in Canterbury. Read the first page
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L O'connor on 4 May 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An apparenty saintly monk, Roger Atworth has died, and a series of miracles have occured at his tomb. The order of which he was a member is hoping Roger will be made a saint, but the Archbishop of Canterbury is not keen on the idea ,he doesn't want any rival saints taking away revenue from the shrine of Thomas a Becket. So he appoints Kathryn Swinbrooke, physician and apothecary, as Devil's Advocate, her job being to argue against the beatification of Roger. Kathryn is also worried about a plague of rats that are infesting Canterbury, not to mention her personal worry over whether her abusive husband is still alive. Is she or is she not free to marry her hunky Irish boyfriend, Colum, Master of the King's horse? This is the latest volume in a very enjoyable series, Kathryn is a likeable character, though perhaps a little too good to be true, some of her opinions seem a little too modern (would any 15th century person really be so sceptical about ghosts, miracles etc?). There are some interesting supporting characters too, and the atmosphere of medieval Canterbury is vividly evoked. You learn some intersting things about the Middle Ages from this series, medical practices in those days were more effective than we realise, and there were apparently women practicing medicine then. A pity this entertaining series is not available in paperback, it should have a winder audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
C. L. Grace is a pseudonym for the author Paul Doherty, who also writes under several other pen names, Michael Clynes, Paul Harding etc. He has to be the most prolific author writing today and it mystifies me how he has had the time consuming position of head teacher at a school in the south of England and write such well researched books, for that is what they are. Whether he is writing about medieval England, Ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt he is more than adept at setting the scene accurately for the reader. However for me his always in his element when writing about the medieval period.

This set of novels feature the medieval physician Kathryn Swinbrooke and are good light reading. The idea of using a woman healer as the lead character sets them apart from many other books, and Kathryn is a likable and believable character. I say believable because at the period that the books were written history would have us believe that dabbling in medicine of any kind was tantamount to a woman admitting she was in league with the devil.

Kathryn has been recalled to Canterbury and is beleaguered by problems, not least whether her erstwhile and vindictive husband is still alive. Also the Archbishop requires her help in assessing whether a recently dead monk deserves to be made a saint, something that for his own reasons the Archbishop is none too keen on and last but not least for her to investigate why Canterbury should recently have had a plague of rats.

Business has been poor recently at the shrine of Thomas a Becket and the dwindling stream of pilgrims visiting the city has dropped to a trickle not only because of the rats but because of several pilgrims being poisoned not too long ago (see a Shrine of Murders).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Mystery in the War of the Roses 21 Oct. 2001
By booksforabuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The War of the Roses appears over with Edward IV firmly on the crown and only Henry Tudor, in exile in France, left to represent the Lancaster hopes. Yet the King of France continues to nibble away at England's strength. Rumor has it that he has a traitor high in the English royal party--but whom.
When a Canterbury monk and the Queen Mother's confessor dies and is found with the stigmata on his body, Kathryn Swinbrooke is asked to serve as Devil's Advocate in his proposed canonization. Was his death a miracle, or could it be something worse?
Certainly there are evil things abroad. Rats have invaded Canterbury and human rats swarm as well. A spy returned from France has learned the name of the traitor but is killed before he can divulge the truth. Kathryn is forced to deal with several intertwined mysteries--and finds herself in grave personal risk.
C. L. Grace writes a wonderfully involving novel set in the fascinating War of the Roses period of English history. Kathryn is an interesting and well developed character--increasing the reader's buy-in to the risk and danger that she finds herself in.
Both the medical technology and the accounts of monestary living add to the readers' interest.
A fine and compelling read.
BooksForABuck.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I was very glad to see a new novel in this series 17 Mar. 2002
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoy this series, and I was sorry when it appeared that C.L. Grace had ended it. I don't think it's a GREAT series, but I always enjoy the books. This was no exception. I was completely caught up in the multiple plots and I hope there will be more volumes in the series.

I would recommend Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series, beginning with A Morbid Taste for Bones: The First Chronicle of Brother Cadfael; Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse series beginning (I think) with The Novice's Tale (Sister Frevisse Medieval Mysteries); and Kate Sedley's series beginning with Death and the Chapman (Medieval Mystery).
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ungraceful 13 Nov. 2001
By charles falk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Paul C Doherty (writing here as CL Grace) is the Earl Stanley Gardner of historical mystery writers, turning out several books a year. Most are set in medieval England, a historical period in which Doherty earned a PhD at Oxford. SAINTLY MURDERS is set in 1472 at Canterbury and features as its sleuth Kathryn Swinbrooke, physician and apothecary. It is packed with murders, mysteries, and royal intrigues. Doherty even gives his readers a locked room mystery, a plot device that has languished since John Dickson Carr. The busy plot tends to distract a reader from the book's weaknesses: shallow characterization and pedestrian dialogue. The historical figures in the story, like Archbishop Borchier and Edward IV, are more fully realized than the fictional ones.
SAINTLY MURDERS bears a passing resemblance to the Brother Caedfal mysteries of Ellis Peters. The central murder victim is a friar of the Order of the Sack, who also happens to be the confessor of Cecily of York, mother of Edward IV. Much of the action takes place on the grounds of the prosperous Order's establishment. Within days of his death, Friar Atwood is being put forward for sainthood because of miracles and mysterious occurrences at his burial site. The Archbishop of Canterbury appoints Kathrn Swinbrooke Advocatus Diaboli (the Devil's Advocate) to argue the case against Atwood's beatification. In the process she uncovers and solves murders and spy plots galore.
Loath though I am to question historical details provided by an Oxford-educated medievalist, Grace/Doherty's having Kathryn appointed Advocatus Diaboli so that she has the power to delve into the mystery of Friar Atwood's death smells extremely fishy. The first recorded mention of an Advocatus Diaboli was in 1513, 40 years after this story takes place, and the office was not formally established until 1587. Those who held the title were generally high churchmen, not apothecaries and certainly not women. My biggest difficulty, though, with SAINTLY MURDERS is not this dubious plot device but rather the way Kathryn exercises her power as Devil's Advocate. In general she behaves just like a brash 21st century female PI. She orders male characters about and threatens them as if she has been doing it all her life. She tells a church prelate to "shut up" and jibes the King's brother about his manhood. In his afterword, Grace/Doherty makes the argument that women "...probably had more rights in 1300 than they had in 1900..." and cites Chaucer's Wife of Bath as a woman who could hold her own with men. Perhaps, perhaps, but that does not mean that a woman of Kathryn's station in life would be accustomed to bossing and questioning, with such panache, men and women of higher social standing.
I find it odd that the Black Death and its aftermath figures not at all in SAINTLY MURDERS' backdrop of English life during a lull in the War of the Roses. The battle of Tewkesbury may have decimated the Lancastrian nobility, but the plague reduced the population of the British Isles by a third, a loss that took three centuries to recoup. The effects of declining food production caused by the plague and climatic change is nowhere visible. The expulsion of the English from their continental possessions is mentioned, but we aren't shown the diastrous reduction in trade that resulted from that loss. Grace/Doherty gives his readers a merry old England going about its business as usual, but that is not the real Britain of 1472.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
at long last: another Kathryn Swinbrooke mystery 5 Sept. 2001
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The War of the Roses may be over for the time being, however intrigue is still the game of the day. And apothecary Kathryn Swinbrooke finds herself uncomfortably in the middle of another mare's nest that includes murder, political intrigue and fraud, in the "Saintly Murders."
It's 1472, and Kathryn is summoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the death of Roger Atworth, a friar in the Order of Sack. Roger Atworth was once a soldier and a member of Dame Cecily of York's (Edward IV's mother) household. As a soldier he led a very violent and lawless life, however, he later repented his sinful ways, gave up the secular life and joined the Order of the Sack. His honest repentance for his past sins and his compassion and understanding towards others earned him a reputation for holiness, and he even became Dame Cecily's confessor. So that when his dead body is discovered in his cell, and the marks of stigmata are found on it, there is a clamour to see him beatified. Soon, people are claiming to have witnessed sightings of him and to have been cured of various ailments as a result. The Archbishop wants Kathryn to play Devil's Advocate and to argue against beatification by proving that there is a logical and scientific/medical explanation for everything that has occurred. On the surface, her task seems easy enough. However, Kathryn soon finds her investigation heavy going -- the friars of Roger's order are openly hostile, cagey and secretive; and a preliminary examination of Roger's body shows that he did not die of natural causes at all, but was murdered. Kathryn begins to suspect that it was his ties to Dame Cecily that got him killed, especially when one of Edward IV's most trusted spies turns up dead outside the friary. Now, Kathryn's academic search for the truth has turned into a manhunt for a ruthless killer. But will she be able to discover who this killer is and what it is he is after before he strikes again?
I'm really glad that Paul Doherty (a.k.a. C. L. Grace) has decide to continue the Kathryn Swinbrooke series. This series was one of my favourites, and I was really disappointed when he stopped writing it a couple of years ago. And what a relief that even though it's been quite a while since the last book in this series, this latest Kathryn Swinbrooke novel is as fresh and as riveting as the other four. As usual, Doherty has peppered the novel with enough detail and atmosphere to keep the novel authentic and accurate to its time period. And Kathryn Swinbrook is as strong minded, vital, appealing and intelligent as ever. The plot is a clever and intriguing one that kept me guessing for quite a while, and the book fairly reeked with suspense and tension as I wondered if Kathryn would unmask the murderer before (s)he struck again.
This novel is a truly brilliant historical murder mystery, and definitely makes for riveting reading.
Murder in Canterbury 3 July 2008
By J. Chippindale - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
C. L. Grace is a pseudonym for the author Paul Doherty, who also writes under several other pen names, Michael Clynes, Paul Harding etc.. He has to be the most prolific author writing today and it mystifies me how he has had the time consuming position of head teacher at a school in the south of England and write such well researched books, for that is what they are. Whether he is writing about medieval England, Ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt he is more than adept at setting the scene accurately for the reader. However for me his always in his element when writing about the medieval period.

This set of novels feature the medieval physician Kathryn Swinbrooke and are good light reading. The idea of using a woman healer as the lead character sets them apart from many other books, and Kathryn is a likable and believable character. I say believable because at the period that the books were written history would have us believe that dabbling in medicine of any kind was tantamount to a woman admitting she was in league with the devil.

Kathryn has been recalled to Canterbury and is beleaguered by problems, not least whether her erstwhile and vidictive husband is still alive. Also the Archbishop requires her help in assessing whether a recently dead monk deserves to be made a saint, something that for his own reasons the Archbishop is none too keen on and last but not least for her to investigate why Canterbury should recently have had a plague of rats.

Business has not been poor recently at the shrine of Thomas a Becket and the dwindling stream of pilgrims visiting the city has dropped to a trickle not only because of the rats but because of several pilgrims being poisoned not too long ago (see a Shrine of Murders). Because of this and other problems the cunning Archbishop does not want a new saint detracting from the shrine and instructs Kathryn to do her best to stop this happening.

Kathryn's investigative skills soon lead her towards the fact that the monk did not die of natural causes by was in fact murdered and the hunt is soon on for the killer.

There is much to enjoy in these books not least the author's writing style, attention to detail and the backdrop of medieval Canterbury. Needless to say the author's research into the period he is writing about is second to none.
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