A second installment in the mystery series based on the Canterbury Tales follows the Man of Law's story in which a trusted squire to the late dowager queen Isabella flees on the day of the queen's burial with an important document.
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P.C. Doherty is the author of several acclaimed mystery series including The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan, the Hugh Corbett medieval mysteries, and the Canterbury Tales of mystery and murder. He lives in England.
In this second of the author's stories modelled on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (An Ancient Evil, 1994), a tale is being narrated each evening by the Man of Laws to the group of pilgrims travelling to Canterbury in the mid-1300s. This one tells of London's young, struggling lawyer Nicholas Chirke. Tired of accepting the charity of the sister and brother-in-law he and his enigmatic servant Scathelocke reside with, Nicholas takes on the job offered by Sheriff Sir Amyas Petrie. The Sheriff wants Nicholas to ferret out the secret carried by Vallence, trusted squire of old Queen Isabella, recently deceased. Vallence had accompanied the Queen's body to London from Castle Rising in Norfolk, then attempted to board a Venetian galley bound for France. Mortally wounded in a confrontation with soldiers trying to arrest him, Vallence whispered something to Justice Stephen Berisford, an old acquaintance. Berisford is the next to die--forerunner of a slew of corpses to follow. Is London's master of the underworld--known as the Guardian of the Gates--behind all the mayhem, and why? Nicholas travels to Norfolk, looses his rapscallion friend Crabtree, discovers Scathelocke's true identity, and, in finding the answers, finally goes against his own conscience. With its clanking, disorderly storyline and clutter of subplots--all amid repetitive, graphic descriptions of bloody encounters and London's fetid byways--this is the least adroit, not to say dullest, of Doherty's often intriguing medieval mysteries. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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