Bloodstone (Brother Athelstan Mediaeval Mysteries)
by Paul Doherty
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Creme de la Crime (March 1, 2012)
An intriguing new Brother Athelstan historical mystery – December, 1380. When the corpse of Sir Robert Kilverby is discovered in a locked room, Brother Athelstan accompanies the King’s coroner to investigate. For Sir Robert had in his possession a priceless relic, a sacred bloodstone, which has now disappeared. Did Sir Robert die of natural causes or was he murdered? Athelstan is sceptical of rumours of a curse hanging over Sir Robert, but when it is discovered that a second old soldier has been gruesomely slain on the same night, the rumours no longer seem so far-fetched . . .
I generally don’t read a lot of murder mystery type books, and if I do, they are most likely going to be set during the middle ages, obviously. One of the best I’ve read is Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, and while Bloodstone does not compare to Name of the Rose in breadth and scope — Eco’s book is two to three times as long — in some respects it could be considered more enjoyable. Doherty’s book is much more concise, as he quickly gets to the murders at hand and the investigation that ensues. The story does not get lost in philosophical and scholarly debates.
The strongest element of the book is that it is unpredictable. Maybe I haven’t read enough murder mysteries, but I really had a difficult time predicting who had committed the crimes. Doherty also does a fairly nice job with his characters. For such a short novel, only 240 pages, the reader does get a good sense of the characters, though most are not overly complex. The major characters like Athelstan are well-liked the entire time. The secondary characters do slightly shift in perception as the story unfolds. Doherty’s dialog is also fairly good. Most of it comes across as being realistic. It’s not Hemingway-esque or on the level of Bernard Cornwell even, but it is still good.
The only quibbles you might could have with the story is the setting. Doherty does a nice job with putting the reader in the medieval period, but I’m certain you could nit-pick and find elements that are historically debatable.
Overall, the story is a good-read. The pacing is good and the suspense is well drawn out. Perfect length.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.