The Canterbury Murders

Written by E.M. Powell
Review by Charlotte Wightwick

It is Easter, 1177, and the King’s Clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant Hugo Stanton are on pilgrimage, making their way to the martyr Thomas Becket’s tomb at Canterbury. But before they can worship at the shrine, they are ordered to investigate the brutal killing of one of the cathedral stonemasons. Within hours, others start to die, clearly by the same hand but with no evident connection. Can Stanton and Barling prevent more deaths and stop the cathedral being disgraced?

This is the third of E.M. Powell’s Barling and Stanton mysteries. The author conjures up the sense of 12th-century England extremely well, from the glories of the cathedral to the unruly hordes of pilgrims and the pleasures of a well-run ale house. The murder mystery is suitably twisty, with a wide cast of likely suspects. The central characters are becoming increasingly complex as the series develops. Barling is outwardly prickly, but inwardly sensitive, fearful for his soul and desperate to keep the friendship of his assistant. Stanton is seemingly charming and happy-go-lucky but hides a secret grief.

This is a highly enjoyable mediaeval murder mystery, with lots of historical atmosphere, appealing characters and an entertaining and ingenious plot. Recommended.