Easter, 1177. Canterbury Cathedral, home to the tomb of martyr Saint Thomas Becket, bears the wounds of a terrible fire. Benedict, prior of the great church, leads its rebuilding. But horror interrupts the work. One of the stonemasons is found viciously murdered, the dead man’s face disfigured by a shocking wound.
When King’s clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, arrive on pilgrimage to the tomb, the prior orders them to investigate the unholy crime.
But the killer soon claims another victim–and another. As turmoil embroils the congregation, the pair of sleuths face urgent pressure to find a connection between the killings.
With panic on the rise, can Barling and Stanton catch the culprit before evil prevails again—and stop it before it comes for them?
THE CANTERBURY MURDERS is the third book in E.M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Combining intricate plots, shocking twists and a winning–if unlikely–pair of investigators, this series is perfect for fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael or C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake.
This is the first of the Stanton and Barling Mysteries that I’ve read, and I will certainly be going back to the first two books.
The Canterbury Murders is a well constructed and intriguing murder-mystery. The main characters of Stanton and Barling are as unlike as chalk and cheese, and I really enjoyed how they clashed with one another, even though they were working towards the same outcome, of solving the mystery.
The peripheral characters are well sketched, and there were times when I was convinced I knew who the murderer was only to discover I was wrong, and when the big reveal came, it was satisfying, and more importantly, made perfect sense.
This was a very well executed and thoroughly entertaining tale and I look forward to more of the same in the future. I’ve already ordered books 1 and 2.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for my review copy.
I’m very honoured to have caught a few moments with Lady Cyneswith, the aunt of King Coelwulf. Thank you for finding the time to speak to me.
“Well, I’m sure you’ve discovered that my nephew is a very busy man, a bit rough around the edges some times, and so I’m delighted to speak with you on his behalf, smooth away any ruffles he might have caused.
Yes, I confess, I had noticed that he was short on time when I tried to speak with him earlier.
Short on time, and economical with his words. He is the king, you know, but of course, his priorities are with defeating the Raiders. I think there are those who don’t quite appreciate the persistence of the enemy. It takes a strong and decisive leader to defeat them, and we should be pleased to have one. Much better than our previous king, who gave up Mercia in exchange for his life. Shocking.
I speak for the whole of Mercia when I say we are so pleased to have such a man leading us. Some new, vigourous, blood was needed to ensure Mercia stayed together.
Our previous king, Burgred, was not blessed with the military requirements for the post. But then, I won’t be alone in believing that Burgred should never have been king. He only achieved what he did because of the manipulation of the natural right of succession.
So, you believe that all the kings since King Coelwulf, first of his name, were usurpers?
I make no bones about that. Mercia wouldn’t be in such peril if my family line had retained their hold on power, as they should have done. But, now is not the time to dwell on that. It’s important to think of the future, and of what is yet to be achieved, but which will be, and soon.
I asked King Coelwulf if had a few words to explain why people should read the latest book.
I imagine he said something along the lines of, ‘I don’t have time for reading, so I wouldn’t.’ And, of course, he means that, but it is difficult for him to appreciate the fascination others have with what he’s trying to achieve. So, I would say, read it and discover just what risks your king, and his warriors and ealdormen are making to ensure Mercia’s freedom. Read it, and understand the peril and take steps to ensure your freedom as well.
And, have you read the latest book?
I have yes, and I’m pleased to say there’s a slightly bigger part for me in, than usual. Of course, it’s difficult with all the fighting to find room for the women of Mercia, but I’m sure that one day, in the not too distant future, Mercia will have female warriors to keep her safe. After all, anyone can learn to chop off someone’s head, or slice them through the neck, the skill, of course, is in staying alive afterwards.
Um, yes, quite. Thank you for that. I wondered if I could get a few words from you about King Alfred of Wessex.
No, not really. I don’t speak about neighbouring kings, and I’ve never met the man. Now, if you asked me about the king of Gwent, then I might have something to say about him, but you haven’t, and so, I don’t.
Could I ask you about the language used in the book? It’s quite strong in places.
While I have no particular need to hear such words, I can well appreciate that, on occasion, they might be warranted. After all, our king and his warriors are risking their lives every time they enter a battle against our enemy. I put it down to the rush of adrenaline, and hope everyone else does the same.
I asked King Coelwulf about his warriors, do you have any particular favourite amongst them?
I take pride in teaching all of the men some simple techniques to treat wounds received in battle. It’s important to know how to heal as well as to maim. My favourites are obviously those who listen carefully and learn what I teach them.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
It is of course, my pleasure, and my duty, as the king’s sole surviving relative. Under his leadership, Mercia will once more be great again.
And there you have it. An interesting interview with Lady Cyneswith, a most formidable woman. I should think she’d be as lethal on the battlefield as her nephew is proving to be. If you haven’t read my earlier interview with King Coelwulf, then you can find it here.
A few weeks ago, I was granted exclusive access to King Coelwulf, to talk about his new book, The Last Enemy. Here’s what the enigmatic king of Mercia had to say.
King Coelwulf, thanks for allowing me entry into your stronghold at Northampton. It’s quite interesting to be at the heart of the Mercian defence against the Raiders. Now, can you tell me why people should want to read the fourth book about you, The Last Enemy?
“Well, I’m not saying that they will. I mean, if they’re like me, then they probably don’t have time to be reading a story. I’ve got bodies to bury, Raiders to hunt down, and a kingdom to rule. I would tell anyone to spend their time more wisely than reading a book. That sort of thing is for the monks and the clerics, not warriors trying to defend a kingdom.”
Ah, well, in that case, thank you for finding the time to speak to me.
“I didn’t have much choice. Or rather, I was advised it would be a good use of my time, by my Aunt, Lady Cyneswith.”
Well, Lady Cyneswith is a wise woman, and I’m grateful that she’s encouraged you to speak to me.
“She is a highly intelligent woman. Braver than many men when it comes to the Raiders, and skilled when it comes to healing injuries of the body, as well as the mind.”
And her dogs have very interesting names, what was it again? Wiglaf and Berhtwulf, surely the names of old Mercian kings? Men who usurped the ruling line from your family?
“Oh really. I’d never realised. Funny, that.”
Ah, well, moving on, could you tell me about your new book? I’m sure my readers would love to hear about it.
“Nothing to say really. Same old, same old. Raiders to evade, Raiders to find, Raiders to kill, a kingdom to keep whole. It’s a grand old bloody mess. I swear, I’ve barely managed to scrub the grime and body fluids from my sword and seax. Or rather, Wulfhere has. He’s a good lad. Quick on his feet. He’s one of my squires. Couldn’t do it without him.
That’s interesting that you should mention your squire, did you say? I wouldn’t have expected you to even know the lad’s name. After all, you are the king of Mercia, surely your squire is beneath you. Are there any more of your warriors you’d like to mention by name?
“Of course there are. I’d name them all if I had the time, which I don’t, just to make you aware. I’ve got to go to a crown-wearing ceremony shortly. But, I’ll mention a few, just to keep you happy. And you should know that no man is ever above knowing the names of those who serve him. Remember that.
But, I’ll mention some of my warriors by name. If only because it’ll infuriate some of them. Edmund, he’s my right-hand man, a skilled warrior, missing an eye these days, but it’s not stopped him, not at all. His brother, Hereman. Well, where do I start? Hereman does things no one would consider, in the heat of battle, and he’s a lucky b……. man, sorry, he’s a lucky man. And then there’s Icel. He’s lived through more battles than any of the rest of my warriors. I almost pity the Raiders who come against him. None of them live for much longer.
And Pybba. You know, he fights one handed now, and the Raiders seem to think he’s easy picking, but he’s not. Not at all. And, I can’t not mention Rudolf. He’s the youngest of my warriors, but his skill is phenomenal, not that you can tell him that. Cheeky b……, sorry cheeky young man. But, all of my warriors are good men, and we mourn them when they fall in battle, but more importantly, we avenge them all. All of them. No Raider should take the life of a Mercian without realising they’ve just ensured their own death.
Yes, I’ve heard that you avenge your men, with quite bloody means. And Edmund, there’s a suggestion that he’s a scop, a man who commits the deeds of the fallen to words? That fascinates me, as someone who also makes a living from using words.
“Well, Edmund has some small skills with words, but he honours our fallen warriors by weaving them into the song of my warriors. In fifty years, when we’re all dead and gone, our legend will live on, thanks to Edmund, and his words.
Can I ask you about Alfred, in Wessex? Have you met him? Do you think he’s doing a good job in keeping the Raiders out of Wessex?
“I’ve never met him. Couldn’t say either way. It’s not for me to comment on a fellow king. We’re all after the same thing. Kill the f……, sorry, kill the b……., sorry, kill the enemy. All of them, until Mercia is safe once more. And Wessex, if you’re from there.”
Well, it looks like you’re needed. Is that your crown?
“Yes, and now I need to go and perform some ceremonial task. It’ll take a long time, no doubt. Make sure you have an escort when you leave here. I wouldn’t put it passed the f……, sorry, the Raiders, to be keeping a keen eye on the bridge over the Nene.
Thank you for your concern, and yes, I’ll make sure I do. Good luck with the new book.
“I don’t need luck. I just need to kill all the b……., sorry, Raiders.
As you can tell, King Coelwulf was a very busy man. But his new book, The Last Enemy, is well worth a read. Bloody, brutal, just like the man himself, but I found him to be honourable and worthy of leading the Mercians against our persistent enemy. Long live the king.
An intrepid female reporter matches wits with a serious, sexy detective in award-winning author Manda Collins’ fun and flirty historical romcom, perfect for readers of Evie Dunmore, Julia Quinn Tessa Dare and Netflix’s Enola Holmes!
Of all the crime scenes in all the world, she walks into his. Twice.
England, 1865: Notorious newspaper columnist Lady Katherine Bascomb is determined to educate the ladies of London on the nefarious criminals who are praying on the fairer sex. But when her reporting leads to the arrest of an infamous killer, Katherine flees to a country house party to escape her doubts about the case – only to become witness to a murder herself! When the lead detective accuses Katherine of inflaming – rather than informing – the public with her column, she vows to prove him wrong.
Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham’s refusal to compromise his investigations nearly cost him his career, and he blames Katherine. When he discovers she’s the key witness in a new crime, he’s determined to prevent the beautiful widow from once again wreaking havoc on his case. Yet as Katherine proves surprisingly insightful and Andrew impresses Katherine with his lethal competency, both are forced to admit the fire between them is more flirtatious than furious. But to explore the passion between them, they’ll need to catch a killer . .
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem grabbed my attention due to the title and the cover. It sounded like a light-hearted, fun read, and in many respects, it was.
Lady Katherine is an engaging character, and with much of the story told from her perspective, we get to know her quite well, although some of her true nature is hidden behind the Victorian facade of never showing emotions. The addition of the story-line being told from the perspective of Inspector Eversham adds an entirely different dimension to the story – that of a more disciplined police officer, although it slips quite quickly.
The beginning of the book takes place in London, and I fully expected the action to remain there, but we are abruptly whisked away to the Lake District where the crimes take on an even more sinister nature, and become somewhat more personal.
The author excels here at producing quite a complex case for the main characters to unravel and it did hook me. There were points where I was convinced I had worked out what was happening, only to be wrong. The budding romance between Lady Katherine and Inspector Eversham does feel a little rushed and there were moments where I might have liked more plot development, but overall, it was a fun and reasonably light-hearted read, not because of the content, but because of the way Lady Katherine insists on solving the mystery of who the murderer is.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem is available now.
Daughter, Sister, Duchess, Aunt. Queen. United by blood and marriage. Divided by seas. Torn apart by ambition. LadyEstridSweinsdottirhas returned from Kiev, her first husband dead after only a few months of marriage. Her future will be decided by her father, KingSweinof Denmark, or will it? A member of the ruling House of Gorm,Estridmight not be eligible to rule, as her older two brothers, but her…