The Inquisitor: Volume 5 (Thomas Berrington Historical Mystery)

Written by David Penny
Review by Loyd Uglow

Brilliant doctor Thomas Berrington comes to Seville as personal physician to Spanish Queen Isabel during her pregnancy, in the years before the kingdom finally destroyed the last Moorish stronghold on the Peninsula. But Seville is under a different kind of siege. The Inquisition holds Spain in its grip, but another terror also permeates the royal city. A mysterious killer known as The Ghost has claimed multiple victims, and Berrington finds himself drawn into the mystery as the only investigator capable of unmasking the murderer.

Berrington, born in England but now a man without a country, is on loan from the Moorish city of Granada, where he serves the Muslim court as physician, solving murders on the side. His natural scientific bent serves him well in either vocation. As he throws himself into care for the queen, he faces difficulties of his own. He has left his pregnant Muslim fiancée, Lubna, virtually at the altar in response to the royal summons, and he manages to bring her and other Muslim members of his household to Seville under an uneasy truce granted by King Fernando. But as Berrington relentlessly tracks The Ghost through the city’s alleys and palaces, he places everyone he holds dear within the killer’s reach.

The novel is more complex than simply a whodunit wrapped in 15th-century garb. It makes an interesting study of the multipolar world of Spain in the days of Columbus. Berrington is quite the Renaissance overachiever, being an expert swordsman and great lover as well as a brilliant doctor and unsurpassed crime solver, and thus not a particularly sympathetic character—the smartest guy in the room seldom is. Overall, though, it’s a satisfying tale.