Red Slayer: Being the Second of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan

Paul Harding, Author William Morrow & Company $20 (283p) ISBN 978-0-688-12569-1
Like The Nightingale Gallery , Harding's previous foray into 14th-century London, his new mystery lavishes as much attention on details of the city's filth- and disease-filled landscape as on its inhabitants. This time, coroner Sir John Cranston and his assistant, Brother Athelstan, are summoned to the Tower of London. Sleeping in a locked and guarded room did not save the Tower's constable, a martinet named Sir Ralph Whitton, from having his throat slit. Although Sir John, who is almost permanently in his cups, seems even more distracted than usual, he and Athelstan soon learn that Sir Ralph had been warned that he would be murdered and that the cause may lie buried in the constable's adventure-filled soldiering past. The plot thickens with additional deaths, all possibly linked to Sir Ralph's, while Athelstan is faced with an equally grisly problem at his impoverished church, St. Erconwald's, from whose graveyard corpses are being stolen. A patient and methodical questioner of suspects as well as an acute yet sympathetic observer of people, Brother Athelstan proves himself worthy of the intricate puzzles Harding contrives. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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