Death Comes as Epiphany

Sharan Newman, Author Tor Books $19.95 (319p) ISBN 978-0-312-85419-5
A medievalist breathes life and vigor into the scholastic debates and religious controversies of 12th-century France in this entrancing mystery debut. Catherine LeVendeur, a young novice and scholar at the Convent of the Paraclete, is sent by the Abbess Heloise on a perilous mission to find out who is trying to destroy the reputation of the convent and, through it, that of the abbess's onetime lover and patron, theologian Peter Abelard. A psalter created at the convent and given as a gift to the powerful abbot Suger of Saint-Denis is later rumored to contain heretical statements in its accompanying commentaries. Catherine, in the role of a disgraced novice, must find the book and copy the disputed passages to determine if they are forgeries. Further complicating her search, Saint-Denis's master stonemason, Garnulf, is murdered, a crime which may be tied to the sinister hermit Aleran and the rebuilding of the splendid Abbey of Saint-Denis. Re-entering worldly life, the young novice must face both her sometimes disapproving family and her attraction to Garnulf's mysterious apprentice, Edgar. Newman skillfully depicts historical figures and issues in a very different age, one in which piety and great beauty coexist with cruelty. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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