>Review: The Alehouse Murders by Maureen Ash

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So I’m doing some catch-up reading for the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge. I started the year off good and then immediately got behind. C’est la vie. My second read is The Alehouse Murders (A Templar Night Mystery) by Maureen Ash, part of the Templar Knight mystery series. As you may have already guessed, it’s a medieval murder mystery set in Lincoln, England, in the year 1200. I chose it mostly for the setting. As you may know, I love medieval mysteries and I especially like anything from that particular time period. It’s the age of Robin Hood, and my favorite era.
Official Description:
After years of captivity in the Holy Land, Templar Bascot de Marins escapes with injuries to his body and soul. Now on sojourn at Lincoln Castle, he hopes to regain his strength, and mend his waning faith-but not even the peace of God’s countryside is safe from the mortal crimes of man…
When four victims are found slain in the town alehouse, Bascot discovers that what appears to be the grisly end to a drunken row is in fact a cunning and baffling case of murder. Bascot tracks his quarry from bawdy-house to baron’s keep, once again risking his life for the justice of God’s will.
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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!

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