The Godless (A Brother Athelstan Mystery Book 19)

Written by Paul Doherty
Review by Irene Colthurst

Brother Athelstan is a friar, devoted to his parish in late 14th-century London, called to investigate the deaths of prostitutes whose nude corpses have red wings pulled onto their heads. The deaths are attributed to the notorious “Oriflamme,” a notorious be-wigged murderer. When a ship of supplies bound for the English garrison at Calais is blown up on the Thames, his focus turns to the clues this incident provides about the killer’s motives and background. Suspicion soon settles on the current and former members of a company of English mercenaries who fought in Normandy during the last days of the Hundred Years’ War. Some of these veterans joined Athelstan’s motley group of parishioners. Others took a different path.

With a prologue set in war-torn France, The Godless spans a setting far beyond the London precincts where its main plot is set. Doherty conveys the sights and smells of the medieval English metropolis with precise detail. As is typical of mysteries, Brother Athelstan is a stalwart, essentially unchanging character. But he is good-natured, methodical, and highly moral, which makes the reader root for him as he unravels the plot of the cunning and diabolic Oriflamme.

The Godless is a well-constructed historical mystery: the context supports the rising tension as Athelstan closes in on the killer. This is a highly recommended read for those interested in the late medieval period or those who enjoy a whodunit with a distinctive historical backstory.