Category Archives: Historical

PAUL DOHERTY. The White Rose Murders (1990).

In the England of 1517, conspiracies unfold beneath the surface of events no less abundantly than rank sewage flows on the street of London. It’s a time of fresh possibility for the island kingdom, with a young and ambitious sovereign ruling at Westminster, but it’s also a time of dark portents and dark realities. This maiden entry in a sequence of tales about political intrigue and personal skullduggery during the reign of King Henry VIII ably evokes a period when life was cheap and truth was dear, and it packs in a generous array of mysteries both large and small. The grandest mystery involves the struggle to control the throne of Scotland—a struggle that, in this telling, has become entangled with the ongoing clash between the Tudor dynasty and advocates of the Yorkist cause, who, three decades after the Battle of Bosworth Field, may be conspiring to retake the English throne. Smaller-scale mysteries arise from a set of killings done to further these machinations.

Two of the murders present variations of the same sealed-room puzzle. The first of them is the keystone event of the whole affair. Alexander Selkirk, a physician to the recently defeated and slain King James IV of Scotland, has gone mad; he writes crackpot verses and issues cryptic utterances that suggest esoteric knowledge about the fate of his country. Forces loyal to King Henry and to James’s widowed queen, Margaret, who happens to Henry’s sister, have captured Selkirk and brought him to the Tower of London, where Margaret and her entourage have taken up residence. WhiteRoseMurders.jpg One night, in a locked and thoroughly guarded chamber, Selkirk succumbs to death by poisoning. How could anyone have gotten close enough to him to administer the fatal substance? (Remnants of food and drink in the room show no trace of poison.) How, too, did a white rose—a symbol of the Yorkist conspiracy—end up next to the corpse? The core trick, once revealed, proves to be rather simple, and the full solution to the puzzle borrows an oft-used device from other locked-room tales. Still, the trick works well in this context, and the process of detection that leads to its revelation is sharp and appealing.

Two characters share responsibility for unraveling that mystery, along with several other quandaries that surround Queen Margaret and her retinue. The ostensible protagonist and the narrator of adventure is Roger Shallot, a charming scalawag whose likeness to Shakespeare’s Falstaff receives an explicit reference from Shallot himself. (One conceit of the series is that Shallot is writing his memoirs at the tail end of the Elizabethan era and that he personally knew the Bard, among other luminaries of the period.) But Shallot’s friend and master, Benjamin Daunbey, handles more than half of the sleuthing work. Whereas Shallot is earthy to the core, Daunbey is lofty in spirit, and the two personae complement each other in the time-honored fashion of Sancho Panza and Don Quixote. (At the same time, the byplay between Shallot and Daunbey has a blithe, loosely egalitarian quality that recalls the interaction between Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their “Road” pictures.)

Doherty (who initially published the novel under his Michael Clynes pseudonym) overestimates the charm of his roguish hero: A little bit of Shallot—of his thieving and wenching, of his self-satisfied tone and his profanely flippant attitude—goes a long way. His narrative voice, which becomes disruptive as the story progresses, is the chief weakness of the book. The chief strength, meanwhile, lies in the author’s unflinching descriptions of 16th-century life. In that respect, Doherty departs from a common tendency among historical novelists (including, say, Ellis Peters in her Brother Cadfael series) to sugarcoat the period about which they write. In an account of Shallot and Daunbey’s journey into the capital, for instance, Doherty sets the scene to gripping effect: “We traveled down through Eastcheap and into Petty Wales, the area around the Tower. God save us, London is a dirty place, but after that infection [of the plague] it was reeking filthy: fleas and lice were everywhere, and the unpaved streets were coated with leavings of every kind. Mound of refuse were piled high, full of the rushes thrown out of houses and taverns, thick with dirt and stinking of spit, vomit and dog turds.”

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Posted by on October 18, 2018 in British, Historical, Novel, Puzzle


JEB RUBENFELD. An Interpretation of Murder (2006).

The idea of casting Sigmund Freud as the sleuth in a murder story, or at any rate as a walk-on sleuthing consultant, has an “overdetermined” quality, as Freud himself might put it. Like a detective, a psychoanalyst excels at finding the thread of significance that lurks within a jumbled skein of reported events. Both figures dedicate themselves to teasing out truths that others seek to hide. And for both, the saga of Oedipus serves as a model for the unraveling of life’s most profound mysteries. Rubenfeld wrests this analogy from its inert obviousness and yokes it to a real historical puzzle: Why did Freud, following his lone visit to the United States, develop a lifelong antipathy to that country—an antipathy so extreme that he once labeled the American experiment in civilization “a great mistake”? The fictional answer, Rubenfeld suggests, is that during his 1909 excursion to the New World the good Dr. Freud witnessed goings-on that would make even the most jaded Old World gentleman cough up his cigar in amazed revulsion.

InterpretationMurder.jpg In that year, Freud traveled to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, to deliver a series of lectures; on his way to New England, he stayed for a week in New York, accompanied by an entourage that included Carl Jung. On the basis of those historical facts, the author erects a complex and adroitly managed plot that hinges on transporting Freud’s famous “Dora” case from fin-de-siècle Vienna to ragtime Manhattan. That case involved a dark love quadrangle in which, behind a façade of bourgeois probity, a man prostituted his daughter (“Dora”) to another man in exchange for conjugal rights to the latter man’s wife. Here, Dora assumes the form of one Nora Acton, a nubile “new woman” who lives with her family in a Gramercy Park townhouse. After a strange incident in which Nora reports molestation as well as memory loss, a young psychiatrist named Chatham Younger subjects her to a course of Freud’s newfangled talk therapy. Younger, an authorial creation who narrates bits and pieces of the novel, conducts his psychoanalytic investigation under Freud’s supervision. Alas, he fares about as well with Nora as Freud did with Dora—that is, not very well at all. Proper sleuthing work remains the province of Jimmy Littlemore, a police detective whose blandly stolid heroism adds (um) “little more” to Rubenfeld’s teeming cast of characters.

Younger, for his part, has much better luck with efforts to interpret the mysteries of Hamlet (What did the melancholy Dane really mean when he asked his “To be or not to be” question?) and of the Oedipus complex (Do children truly harbor feelings of homicidal jealousy toward their parents?). Those moments are among the choicest slices of Rubenfeld’s dense literary layer cake. Also worthy of praise are a series of ably evoked period locations, ranging from the exalted heights of a luxury apartment house (based on the fabled Ansonia, on the Upper West Side) all the way down to the pressurized depths of an underwater “caisson,” used in the construction of the Manhattan Bridge. Down there, as in the airless bottom of the human unconscious, a man might lose not only his breath but also his very self.

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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in American, Historical, Novel


HAROLD ADAMS. The Man Who Was Taller Than God (1992).

ManTallerGOd.jpgCarl Wilcox, an itinerant man-of-all-work and an occasional sleuth, is not so much hard-boiled as he is parched and withered. He’s been worn down by the elements—sun and wind, lust and greed—that dominate the Depression-era South Dakota landscape in which he operates. To be sure, he retains a modicum of spirit, and it’s most evident when he’s flirting with the many lonely and attractive women who cross his path. Yet over everything that he does or says (Wilcox narrates his own adventures), there hangs an air of rueful impoverishment. Like his urban private-eye counterparts, like Spade and Marlowe and the rest, he has turned detached alienation into both an ethic and a style; unlike them, he can’t draw on the frenzied energies of a big-city environment to compensate for the bleakness in his soul. Called upon to solve the murder of a womanizing insurance salesman, Wilcox undertakes the task with little sense of urgency, and indeed with little sense of interest. It’s just another job to him, like the sign-painting gig that brought him to town in the first place. He works the case in the way of private investigators everywhere, by knocking on doors and riling people up, and in time the truth spills out. That revelation seems overly complex, given the rather minimalist quality of the narrative that precedes it, and Adams does too little too prepare readers for it. Still, it’s a conclusion that well suits the all-embracing drought of Wilcox’s time and place—a drought that was, according to Adams, spiritual as well as meteorological.

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Posted by on August 31, 2014 in American, Historical, Novel


DAVID FULMER. Chasing the Devil’s Tail (2001).

Someone is murdering the “sporting women” who make the Storyville section of New Orleans what it is. Or, rather, what it was—for the year is 1907. Storyville, a 14-block area that became a district of legally sanctioned vice in 1897, is a thriving hub of morally dubious activity. The fabled “oldest profession in the world” flourishes there, and so does the world’s newest art form, a style of music known as “jass” or “jazz.” (The heyday of the District, as it was known, lasted until 1917. That year, the U.S. Navy deemed it to be a threat to wartime discipline and shut it down.) This tale opens with the killing of one prostitute. Then comes another. And another. And so on. Each homicide takes place in a different Storyville brothel, and the method of murder differs each time as well. The only element that unites these crimes, other than the victim’s mode of employment, is the placement (by the killer, presumably) of a black rose on or near the corpse.


For writers today, especially those who deal in tales of historical crime, the serial murder of fallen women is an evergreen trope. A string of dead whores calls forth the cultural memory of Jack the Ripper, and it makes for a powerful, readymade theme. Yet it’s a theme that, all too often, allows writers and their readers to keep a certain distance from the dark material at hand: The poor “unfortunates” who become murder victims loom as faceless emblems of a benighted time gone by. Fulmer, to his credit, deploys this trope in a nuanced and credible way. Shrewdly, he abandons the common genre practice of using first-person narration, and thus he’s able to offer a sympathetic, God’s-eye view of the women who plied their trade in the mansions of Basin Street and vicinity. He observes, for instance, that they frequently (and understandably) sought comfort and intimacy not from men, but from each other. More generally, Fulmer excels at delivering incisive pen sketches of lived experience. In his authorial care, we come to know—or believe that we know—what it felt like, and sounded like, and smelled like, to stroll the banquettes of the Vieux Carré in the early years of a new century.

Writerly flair also gives Fulmer an edge when it comes to populating the tale with actual personages of that time and place. That standard technique of historical fiction can result in awkward efforts to blend historical truth with fictional truth. (It can be especially problematic in a detective story: Readers know that such “real” characters aren’t plausible murder suspects.) But Fulmer has a deft way of bringing into his narrative such people as Tom Anderson, the so-called King of Storyville; E.J. Bellocq, a photographer whose portraits of Storyville prostitutes form a powerful, haunting record of those women and their milieu; the fabled whorehouse madams Lulu White and “French” Emma Johnson; and, most centrally, the cornet player Buddy Bolden—a titanic presence in the early history of jazz and also, in Fulmer’s telling, a tragic figure who was essentially driven insane by his own talent.

Another emissary from the history of turn-of-the-century New Orleans, jazzman Jelly Roll Morton, offers the bit of aphoristic wisdom that provides a title for the book: “You best be careful if you go chasin’ the devil’s tail, ’cause you just might catch it.” Fulmer has Morton spout that line to Valentin St. Cyr, the fictional sleuth who has star billing here. BellocqPhoto.jpgSt. Cyr, half African and half Italian by descent, functions ably in the half-lit, half-legal world of the District. Employed as an enforcer and problem solver by Anderson, and by some of the savvier Storyville madams, he is just the right fellow to launch a hunt for the “devil” who’s terrorizing the Crescent City.

That hunt, unfortunately, isn’t as compelling as it might be. Readers have scant opportunity to follow St. Cyr in working through a set of clues, because real clues are thin on the ground. (That black-rose motif? It never amounts to much.) There’s a big, stinky red herring: Each of the slain women had a clear connection to Bolden, and Bolden conspicuously lacks an alibi for each murder. There’s a long, anguished, but essentially empty quest by St. Cyr to find an alternative explanation for the killings. (St. Cyr, a boyhood friend of cornet player, never harbors any doubt as to Bolden’s innocence.) Finally, there’s a flash of insight that leads the detective to discern the unlikely suspect who is, in fact, the culprit. Fulmer, though, does little to set the stage for that epiphany. Some readers will be able to guess at least part of the solution, but only because there are only a few directions in which the story can go. Chasing the Devil’s Tail, in short, is a tale in which the chase has far greater resonance than the moment of capture.

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in American, Historical, Novel


BARBARA CLEVERLY. The Last Kashmiri Rose (2001).

A serial killer of great subtlety and near-infinite patience stalks Panikhat Station, an outpost of the British Raj located in the hinterland of Bengal. It’s March 1922, and Peggy Somersham, wife of a British officer, lies dead. Her assailant had gagged her, held her down as she lolled in a tub, and then slit her wrists. Called in to investigate is Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yard detective who has come to Calcutta to deliver lectures on modern police procedure. LastKashmiri.jpg He and his sleuthing cohorts—including the wife of the district Collector, a pert, smart flapper named Nancy Drummond, and Naurung, a native Indian deputy who offers his white masters the standard combination of wiliness, ambition, and loyalty—quickly discern that this murder is the fifth in a series that began in 1910. In each case, a memsahib (meaning, in this instance, a white woman) had suffered a horrible but seemingly nonhomicidal death during the month of March: One had fallen from a cliff while on horseback, one had succumbed to a cobra’s bite, one had drowned during a river crossing. Who could want all of these women to die, and who could want to eliminate them in such a methodical and long-range fashion?

Suspects in this adventure are few, and clues to a possible motive are even fewer. Cleverly, although she borrows many a prop from the Golden Age novel of detection, has little interest in setting forth a puzzle. Instead, she models her tale on those late-20th-century thrillers that pit a cunning psychopath against a hero or heroine who is adept at criminal profiling. (In one of the book’s many borderline anachronisms, she has Sandilands draw insight from his reading of Freud and Jung. Those titans of psychoanalysis had achieved some notoriety by the 1920s, to be sure, but how plausible is it that a British copper of that era would be conversant in their ideas?) The identity of the likely villain emerges early and becomes steadily more evident. And yet, just when it seems that Cleverly has no surprises in store, she delivers one that arrives with a decisive snap. Despite that welcome twist, the closing sequence of the novel drags on longer than it should, and a too-cute-by-half romantic subplot weighs down the story as a whole. Beyond that story, what remains in memory is the author’s evocation of a timeless India as it intersects with a British Empire whose time is now running out.


Posted by on November 19, 2013 in British, Historical, Novel


CALEB CARR. The Alienist (1994).

A mutilated body, barely recognizable as that of a boy, is found atop a bridge tower in the Manhattan of 1896. Further obscuring the sexual identity of the victim are the dress and face-paint that had, in life, rendered him a cartoonish facsimile of a girl. The poor soul had been among the countless immigrant children who are compelled by a Darwinian struggle for survival to sell their flesh, and to sell it to a clientele with specialized tastes in how such tender merchandise is packaged.Alienist.jpg It’s not the sort of crime that would typically spur much official interest in locating the perpetrator. But the killing follows a series of earlier, similar atrocities, and New York City police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt worries over the threat posed to the social order by a fiend who targets the immigrant poor. Fearful of mob violence, Roosevelt creates an unofficial committee to investigate the murders and places at its head Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the tale’s eponymous hero. (“Alienist” was a then-common term for what we now call a psychiatrist.) In this man, every major trend in the burgeoning field of psychology seems to converge, from William James’s work on the early formation of habit to the theories of Freud and Breuer concerning the effects of childhood trauma—and Kreizler brings all of that insight to bear on the search for the killer’s motive and whereabouts. He also brings to the case a tumultuous background of his own that figures decisively in the manhunt. Carr overloads the novel with historical digressions, moral and psychological theorizing that occasionally flirts with anachronism, and bouts of old-fashioned high adventure. At its weakest, his writing suggests a combination of Jonathan Kellerman (whose own shrink hero, Alex Delaware, flourished in fiction a century later) and the Hardy Boys. Yet at his best, which is on display frequently enough, Carr maintains a firm hold on a smart, sprawling narrative.

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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in American, Historical, Novel


MATTHEW PEARL. The Dante Club (2003).

Boston, at the tail end of 1865, is intent on putting the horrors of the Civil War behind it. Who, then, is equally intent on bringing to that fabled City on a Hill a new series of horrors—those envisioned by the 13th-century Florentine poet Dante in The Inferno? The answer, this earnestly crafted thriller suggests, comes in two parts. First, a group of literary luminaries plans to introduce Dante’s masterpiece to the New World by releasing a fresh English translation. DanteClub.jpg Second, a deranged soul has begun, in a brutally literal fashion, to enact the poet’s medieval punishments upon select members of the Boston Brahmin caste. The two parts converge when the illustrious men of letters, led by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who is joined by the poet and teacher James Russell Lowell, the doctor-essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the publisher James T. Fields), take notice of the killer’s grisly approach to literary criticism. Then, filling a gap left by the slightly corrupt and scholastically hopeless Boston police force, they remake their self-proclaimed Dante Club into a squad of sleuths. Pearl smoothly mixes dark historical fact and the darker fancy of his 21st-century mind, yielding a big, boxy narrative that contains more riches than it truly needs: entomological curiosities, sidelights on American publishing history, the psychological effects of mass carnage upon Union veterans, the sorrows of Longfellow in widowerhood, race relations in the seat of abolitionism, the tensions wrought upon proudly modern Boston by its Calvinist past, and on and on. The members of the Dante Club track down the poetry-mad perpetrator, with a zeal that they would otherwise devote to hunting down le mot juste, but the heroic climax is too long in coming. Like many writers who set their pick against the quarry of history, Pearl ends up weighing his book down with great slabs of research. The result, though smartly told in solid prose, justifies his hard work more than it serves the strict needs of his tale.


Posted by on June 19, 2013 in American, Historical, Novel, Puzzle


MICHAEL DIBDIN. The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (1978).

The word “last” in the title is no mere marketing flourish; it’s an omen of genuine terminality. Something truly ends in this first novel by Dibdin, who later made a mark with his series about Italian police commissioner Aurelio Zen. At the least, what ends here is the aura of boyish innocence that lay draped like a warm, woolly Inverness cape across the imagined world of the original Holmes tales. LastSherlock.png The cozy structures of Victorian life, which had long kept evil within boundaries that the great detective could negotiate with masterly flair, are now crumbling underfoot. Inciting this affront to order are the exploits of Jack the Ripper: In the fall of 1888, an assailant slices a half-dozen prostitutes to death on the dank, narrow streets of Whitechapel, in east London. For Holmes, whose career was on the ascent at that very moment, the Ripper killings present the ultimate crime-fighting challenge. Add in the involvement of Professor Moriarty (this book’s title also plays on “The Final Problem,” the title of the adventure in which Holmes confronts that fabled nemesis), along with the motif of Holmes’s cocaine addiction, and Dibdin has the makings of a tour de force. Sherlockian purists might deem the novel to be a tour de farce, a pastiche that begins competently but then veers perversely from homage to horror. They would not be wrong. But others will appreciate Dibdin’s clever plotting, which recalls Ruth Rendell at her most ingenious and most psychologically acute. Non-purists might also see that this work is finally about Dr. Watson, who of course acts as narrator, and about the good doctor’s abiding affection for Holmes—the Holmes whom posterity knows, and whom Watson knew and loved.


Posted by on May 31, 2013 in British, Historical, Novel, Puzzle


ALAN FURST. The World at Night (1996).

Twice in the span of a few dozen pages, the author refers to Eric Ambler, a novelist who specialized in World War II–era tales of ordinary men thrust into extraodinary service as spies of one type or another—tales, in other words, much like this one. Along with his excellent use of primary research, Furst draws generously from secondary sources for inspiration. Other creative touchstones, in this saga of France during the 1940s, include the novels of Georges Simenon and the films of Jean Renoir. (Each man receives a glancing, telling mention from Furst). It’s a story of Gallic wartime intrigue for readers already steeped in the ways of French culture and in the plot lines of Ambler, of Graham Greene, of John le Carré.

WorldAtNight.jpgJean-Claude Casson, as Furst calls his Ambleresque hero, produces films that are successful enough to earn him a life of high-bourgeois ease in the fashionable 16th Arrondissement of Paris. With a world-weary smile, Casson accepts the round of comfortable compromise that appears to be his lot. But after May 1940, when the Nazi Occupation begins to settle upon his city, he discovers that there are compromises and then there are compromises. When a chance comes to perform an undercover operation in Spain, ostensibly on behalf of British Intelligence, he takes it. But the mission goes awry, information about it falls into German hands, and the Nazis use that information to pressure Casson into becoming a double agent. Alongside such misadventures, a romance takes hold between Casson and a tragically lonely actress named Citrine, who steps into the flickering candlelight of Furst’s imagination as if she were fresh from a story by Guy de Maupassant or a song by Édith Piaf.

Mystique is everything to Furst, and mystery matters very little. The question of who betrayed Casson to the Gestapo spurs no investigation and finds no answer; it’s met, instead, with a “C’est la guerre” shrug. What Furst cares about is the intersection of a certain place, a certain moment, and a certain kind of man. While he explores that territory with real panache (or is “élan” the right term?), he also carries his romanticism a bit too far. The finale, for example—meant to strike a chord that is astonishing yet inevitable—falls short on both counts. The destiny of Casson and the destiny of France have much in common, but they are not identical.


Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Historical, Noir, Novel


C.J. SANSOM. Dissolution (2003).

Life is cheap in the England of Henry VIII—there is widespread pestilence, there is religion-fueled mayhem, there is the unpleasant matter of Anne Boleyn, executed at the Tower in 1536—but even in that death-saturated land, it’s not every day that someone lops off the head of an emissary from the king. Nonetheless, at the Monastery of St. Donatas the Ascendant of Scarnsea, in the year 1537, a royal commissioner named Robin Singleton has found himself on the wrong side of a sword blade. Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s imperiously competent and much-feared vicar general, had dispatched Singleton to Scarnsea to negotiate terms of surrender with Abbot Fabian, the leader of the monastery. That move was part of Cromwell’s grand scheme to dismantle the country’s great religious establishments; his aim, in undertaking this “dissolution,” was both to further the cause of anti-papist Reform and to claim the wealth of the monasteries for the crown and its allies. Dissolution.jpgDid one of the monks at St. Donatus decide to strike a personal blow for Counter-Reformation by murdering Singleton? To find out, Cromwell calls upon the investigative talents of Matthew Shardlake, a prosperous London lawyer and a loyal Reform man, who here appears in the first book of a series that follows his journey through the treacherous world where Tudor politics and sordid crime intermingle. Shardlake also happens to be a hunchback, and that condition arguably gives him a distinct angle of view on the rampant cruelty and suffering of his time.

Dissolution owes more than a little to the model of The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. Like that best-selling tome, which opened the way for countless medieval mysteries that have followed, Sansom’s novel offers a minutely observed look inside a cloistered realm that typifies its era in many respects but also stands apart as a world unto itself. In each case, the rivalries and resentments that inevitably arise within an (almost) all-male population—a population marked by an imperfect commitment to celibacy and a sometimes warped commitment to the Christian faith—serve up lots of raw material for intrigue, secrecy, and misunderstanding. Shardlake and his protégé, Mark Poer, also resemble Eco’s heroes, John of Baskerville and Adso of Melk, in seeming just modern enough to bridge the gap between the mind of the Middle Ages and the sensibility of readers today. Sansom even includes a throwaway reference to one of the main plot points in Eco’s opus. (Brother Gabriel, the monk in charge of the library at St. Donatus, takes a book from the library’s collection and says to Shardlake: “Reputedly a copy of Aristotle’s lost work On Comedy. A fake, of course, thirteenth-century Italian, but beautiful nonetheless.”)


But Sansom‘s work is a superbly crafted whodunit with special qualities of its own. In a departure from the standard pattern, Shardlake rather that Poer narrates these proceedings, and he comes across less as a “great detective” than as a Watson-like figure: His voice, like his personality, is smart and stolid, yet oddly ingenuous. His response to the events that he witnesses is earnest and occasionally naïve—an attitude that plays an integral part in the story that Sansom aims to tell. Shardlake isn’t just a creature of his time; he’s a man formed by his time. Unlike many period mysteries, this one doesn’t treat the past as a static backdrop. Instead, readers gain a visceral sense that the English Reformation was a fluid process whose ultimate meaning and impact were far from certain. For Shardlake, a deepening of insight into that historical moment comes in tandem with an epiphany that lets him solve the murder puzzle. “This new world was no Christian commonwealth; it never would be,” he notes.

It was in truth no better than the old, no less ruled by powers and vanity. … And then I realized that blinkered thinking of another sort had blinded me to the truth of what happened at Scarnsea. I had bound myself to a web of assumptions about how the world worked, but remove one of those and it was as though a mirror of clear glass were substituted for a distorting one. My jaw dropped open. I realized who had killed Singleton and why and, that step taken, all fell into place.

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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in British, Historical, Novel, Puzzle