The First Murder

Written by The Medieval Murderers
Review by Rachel A Hyde

Here is the eighth compilation of interwoven historical mysteries by the changing cast of The Medieval Murderers. As per usual it is the tale of how an item causes murder and mayhem down the centuries before turning up in more recent times and being finally laid to rest. This time the item is a mystery play, first penned at Oseney Abbey in Oxford in 1154. The subject is the first murder as Cain slays Abel, and as the manuscript resurfaces in later centuries it continues to wreak its curse.

I always enjoy these and think of them rather like a holiday annual. The various authors either choose to write about their usual characters in a way that does not get alluded to in the main series books, or opt for something totally new just for this series. Ian Morson writes again of the adventures of the engaging Joe Malinferno and Doll Pocket, and I wish he would write about them in a new series of full-length novels. They are certainly interesting enough, and his 1820s setting is not a decade often featured, being neither Regency nor Victorian. Susanna Gregory treats us to the next chapter in her tales of the equally engaging 12th-century Welsh pair (again, nice to read about a) Wales and b) mediaeval Wales for a change). Bernard Knight has a new one-off setting, as does newcomer Karen Maitland, while Philip Gooden revisits Nick Revill. These are all authors equally adept at the often restrictive narrow margins of the short story and this is, as usual, a fine collection of entertaining tales that fit together as neatly as a Chinese puzzle box. One series that shows no sign of getting tired; long may it be an annual tradition.