My overall impression of this story was that it’s rather – quiet. The story is subdued and the sleuth, Bascot de Marins, is almost in the background compared to the other characters, particularly the suspects. That might sound like a bad thing but it’s really not. It’s actually fitting when you think about it. What should a sleuth do but listen and watch, staying a little apart from everyone to see what’s really going on. I think this contrast actually makes Bascot stand out a little more. Plus, he’s a likable character with a scarred history and personal turmoil over his past choices and future decisions. He’s compassionate and you can tell without a lot of smoke and flash that there is more to him than meets the eye. (That was actually an unintentional pun – he lost one eye in the Crusades.) And I really enjoyed the relationship between Bascot and his young, mute charge, Gianni. Gianni, despite not saying a word, is also a lovable character from his behavior alone.
As to the actual murder mystery, I had no clue whodunnit until the tale end. I did guess before the reveal, but it could have worked out differently. I have to say I was not into the story that much until the middle when an exciting twist is revealed. At the start, I had no idea how it would all connect and it took me until about the half-way point to really care that much. Thereafter, Ash had my attention, and she kept it going with the palpable tension among the suspects. There is very little action apart from the actual crimes, but you don’t miss it. There’s so much tension between the characters from the start, and even between races with the included historical import of the Jewish community in England at the time.
With all historical-based novels, setting detail is important to inform the reader and ground you in that world and Ash does a stupendous job of doing just that. It’s easy to imagine the land, castle, and town. I know different readers may prefer varying amounts of historical detail, but I eat up specifics, especially for this time period. Along that line is a subplot that’s entirely unrelated to the murder. Bascot orders custom boots to relieve pain in his foot from an old injury. It’s a small thing, but the details and the personal nature of that side story has stuck in my mind. And Ash does tie it in to the murder mystery via information from the shop owner’s son.
All-in-all this is a murder mystery grounded in details and subtleties. It’s a quieter read with a lot of personal touches that draw you to Bascot and his companion. But the tension and unexpected twists really make this a mystery worth reading.
Have you read The Alehouse Murders or another Templar Knight book? What was your take? Have any suggestions for similar titles?
P.S. I also have a guest post today over at A Word Please. I chat about how everything I love came together in my first novel. I hope it will encourage and inspire you to keep writing!