A Plague of Poison

Written by Maureen Ash
Review by John R. Vallely

Maureen Ash’s Templar Knight mystery series has introduced Bascot de Marins to scores of readers in previous volumes. Her latest finds the battle-scarred veteran of Crusader warfare challenged by a series of murders by poison in and around Lincoln Castle. An intelligent and methodical man, Bascot is faced by a puzzling number of murders which seem to have no relationship to one another, but all involve the same type of poison. Called upon by the Lady Nicolaa to resolve the problem, Bascot steadily moves forward from isolating the means by which the poison is transmitted to the inevitable confrontation with the murderer. Along the way, the reader is treated to Ash’s absolutely astonishing understanding of early 13th century social life and conditions. Every detail from food preparation to castle life is outlined in a manner which appears almost seamless to the 21st century interloper. Unfortunately, Ash is unable to inject any life into her characters. Bascot and those around him move through their world as lifeless and uninteresting actors in a drama that does not concern them. This is a shame, since it is such a contrast with the author’s brilliant eye for providing the setting in which they live.