The Canterbury Murders by E.M. Powell
Publication Date: November 12, 2020
Series: Stanton & Barling, #3
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
A fire-ravaged cathedral. An ungodly murder.
Easter, 1177. Canterbury Cathedral, home to the tomb of martyr Saint Thomas Becket, bears the wounds of a terrible fire. Benedict, prior of the great church, leads its rebuilding. But horror interrupts the work. One of the stonemasons is found viciously murdered, the dead man’s face disfigured by a shocking wound.
When King’s clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, arrive on pilgrimage to the tomb, the prior orders them to investigate the unholy crime.
But the killer soon claims another victim–and another. As turmoil embroils the congregation, the pair of sleuths face urgent pressure to find a connection between the killings.
With panic on the rise, can Barling and Stanton catch the culprit before evil prevails again—and stop it before it comes for them?
THE CANTERBURY MURDERS is the third book in E.M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Combining intricate plots, shocking twists and a winning–if unlikely–pair of investigators, this series is perfect for fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael or C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake.
MY THOUGHTS.....The Canterbury Murders is a historical mystery set in Canterbury, Kent in 1177 and I was immediately transported back to Canterbury Cathedral in the 12th century, during the time when the people, referred to as pilgrims, continuously journeyed to visit the shrine of the murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett. A stonemason working to repair the cathedral after a devastating fire is found badly mutilated and investigators Aelred Barling and Hugo Stanton are enlisted to find the killer. When more murders are discovered, it's up to Barling and Stanton to find a common connection.
Author E.M. Powell has crafted an intriguing novel that both educates and entertains. The Historical Note at the end of the book relates the true facts of the feud between King Henry II and Thomas Beckett that led to Beckett's murder, along with many other historical facts and figures pertinent to this era. Powell's creation of numerous fictional characters and the many twists and turns surrounding the medieval murders increase the fascination and I was kept guessing until the very end!
This is the third book featuring Stanton and Barling but it can be read as a standalone. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher but there was no obligation for a positive review. These are my own thoughts.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Benedict, prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, is walking in the peace of his garden, grieving for his beloved fire-damaged cathedral...
The cathedral's wounds had been inflicted during the hours of darkness, when murderers and robbers and others bent on wrongdoing often chose to be abroad. It had been an afternoon, A September afternoon, unseasonably hot and humid, with the sun glowing a dull ember and a blustery gale that brought no freshness to the air.
Benedict could feel the pull and flap of the strong, warm wind on his black habit, though the garden around him remained quiet.
It so happened like this. He could be perfectly content one minute. Or busy with his undending list of tasks prior. Or having his face shaved by one of his servants. Or breaking bread for a meal. It mattered not.
He would be back in those fateful autumn hours.
The commotion from the outside the south wall of the cathedral grounds. Three cottages, all on fire.
Outside. Not of my concern: his dismissive words to one of the monks who come to alert him. 'Make you keep the gate clear,' he'd said to the monk. 'We cannot have pilgrims delayed in their entry.'
The townsfolk had merged on the threat, making such a commotion and clamour as only townsfolk could. Not to mention the loudness of the excited mob of pilgrims and hawkers that followed them. After more uproar and shouts and soil and water and hooks to pull down the burning walls, the flames had been vanquished.
Order has been restored. The monks report to Benedict.
Benedict had nodded and gone back to his work.
Such fuss at so very little. People did like to make a great happening of nothing. No doubt they crowded into the town's alehouses, using the thrill of danger that had caused no actual harm to tell stories and exaggerate their own part in it. A danger that was safely past.
But it was not.
For the powerful wind, the wind that Benedict often thought of since as having blown from hellmouth, was doing its unseen, wicked work, silent as a serpent and equally intent on evil.
As the townsfolk beat down the flames of the burning cottages, as they tackled the flaring thatch, sparks and embers flew up. Up, up on the violent gusts of wind, cloaked in dust and yellowing leaves ripped from the trees. Up, up over the walls of the cathedral. Up over the very tops of the trees. Up to the roof of the cathedral, where the buffering gale forced them between the gaps of the lead, like a shower of smouldering hail.
No one saw. No one knew.
On the ground, people proclaimed victory.
In the roof, the sparks met the rafters, the bone-dry, rotting wood that had held up the mighty edifice since the time of Saint. Anselm.
On the ground, people cheered and raised their ales.
In the roof, the rafters were afire. feeding the crackling flames that jumped to the beams and the braces to greater life.
On the ground, people clapped their hands and sang.
In the cathedral, the lay brothers polished the carved wooden seats of the choir, as the lead-lined, brightly painted ceiling high above them hid the infrerno of broiling heat and flames.
In his chambers, Benedict amended an account to order some extra grain for the monks.
On the ground, people sang on.
In the roof, the flames grew to such a height that the leaded roof began to soften. Melt. Dissolve.
The first smoke poured out in a white, billowing cloud.
And on the ground came a shout: 'Look, look! God's eyes, look!'
And another: 'The cathedral's on fire!'
The same shout at Benedict's door, the shout that had him race outside, following the frantic monk's lead, That had him jostle for position in the heaving crowd, staring aloft in disbelief, his heart thumping in his chest.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
E.M. Powell’s historical thriller and medieval mystery Fifth Knight and Stanton & Barling novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers.
The third Stanton & Barling mystery, THE CANTERBURY MURDERS, will be released in November 2020.
Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
E.M. Powell is represented by Josh Getzler at HG Literary.
Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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The Canterbury Murders