cover image The Invention of Fire

The Invention of Fire

Bruce Holsinger. Morrow, $26.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-235645-1

The invention of handguns presages a radical change in warfare in Holsinger’s skillful and engrossing second medieval whodunit (after 2014’s A Burnable Book). In London in 1386, the bodies of 16 unidentified men, who have been slaughtered in some unknown fashion, are found in a public privy. Poet John Gower, a colleague of Geoffrey Chaucer, is asked to look into the deaths by Ralph Strode, an old friend who was once a criminal court judge. Strode warns him that not everyone is eager for a solution. Nicholas Brembre, “perhaps the most powerful mayor in London’s history,” is reported to have destroyed evidence and threatens anyone who even mentions the massacre. Strode correctly predicts that Gower’s “devotion to the right way” will move him to seek the truth, a challenge made even greater by the investigator’s fears that he’s going blind. Holsinger is equally adept at depicting the machinations of the rich and powerful and the fears and hopes of the working class, “desperate to hold on to their small scraps of ground in the face of the great events unfolding around them.” Agent: Helen Heller, Helen Heller Agency (Canada). (Apr.)