cover image The First Murder

The First Murder

The Medieval Murderers. Simon & Schuster U.K. (IPG, dist.), $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-84983-736-1

A play featuring Cain’s murder of Abel, The Play of Adam, written in 1154 by Prior Wigod for his priory’s Easter pageant, links the six strong narratives in this eighth collective offering (after 2011’s Hill of Bones) from the Medieval Murders (this round: Ian Morson, Bernard Knight, Philip Gooden, Karen Maitland, and Susanna Gregory). In the prologue, the first of Maitland’s two contributions, murder results, despite Wigod’s good intentions, after the drama’s first staging affords opportunities for mischief by some of his rivals within the church. Later sections carry over the conceit of the play being cursed, with violence following efforts to perform it. As in part volumes, Gregory and Maitland especially distinguish themselves. Gregory’s entry, set in 1199, charts the journey of the play from Oxford to Carmarthen; in Maitland’s, set in 1361 Cambridgeshire, the play is believed responsible for the awakening of a “demon of death.” The various authors’ styles mesh well. (Jan.)