cover image The Bloodstained Throne

The Bloodstained Throne

Simon Beaufort, Severn, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-6917-3

An overly convoluted plot mars an otherwise solid historical, the seventh to feature Sir Geoffrey Mappestone (after April 2010's Deadly Inheritance). In September 1103, Geoffrey and his friend, Sir Roger of Durham, both former crusader knights, must try to solve two murders after surviving a shipwreck off England's south coast. A fellow passenger aboard the Patrick, Philippa, claims that she saw Juhel, a Breton, throw a Norman named Paisnel overboard. Another shipmate, the elderly Vitalis, winds up on the English shore strangled to death. While trying to identify the killer or killers, Geoffrey and Roger find themselves on the run from the Patrick's crew, who turn out to be pirates. Keeping characters and motives straight is more challenging than it should be, especially as one of two former academics sharing the Beaufort pseudonym has written numerous intricate, more coherent puzzles under the name Susanna Gregory. (Nov.)