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Friday, 24 July 2015

‘The Deadliest Sin’ by The Medieval Murderers

Published by Simon & Schuster,
29 June 2015.
ISBN: 978-10-47111-438-0 (PB)

A party of pilgrims on their way to a holy place to pray for deliverance from a particular form of evil; an overnight stop in a wayside inn, extended by bad weather; a suggestion that they entertain each other by telling stories. Sounds familiar?

Most students of English literature will recognize the concept; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are still quoted and retold to this day. The Deadliest Sin follows a similar pattern, albeit with fewer stories and more authors. Whereas Chaucer wrote all twenty-plus tales himself, this collection is the work of a group of historical crime writers who band together not only to promote their work, but also to write collaborative novels and collections of stories.

In this collection, loosely gathered into a novel using Chaucer’s basic plot, the pilgrims’ destination is Walsingham, and they seek deliverance from the Black Death, which is raging through Europe and felling half the population. The members of the party attempt to outdo each other with stories of evil, taking the Seven Deadly Sins as their theme. Each has a murder at its core; some are especially dark, while others adopt a lighter tone.

Michael Jecks sets the ball rolling with a tale of Lust among soldiers fighting in France. Ian Morson follows with a story of Greed in ancient Venice, and another of Gluttony in Trebizond, possibly better known today as Turkey. Susannah Gregory joins up with the alter ego Simon Beaufort which she shares with her husband, for a return to the UK for a tale of Sloth based around a Welsh monastery. Philip Gooden’s story of Anger brings us to a village in rural Kent, and Bernard Knight takes us to the medical community of Bristol for the consequences of Envy. Finally it’s Karen Maitland’s turn: a story of Pride among the minor clergy of Lincoln.

As well as richly realized stories in the their own right, the seven tales are an opportunity to sample the work of half a dozen accomplished historical novelists whose names are well-known among aficionados of the sub-genre, but possibly less so among the wider reading public. Some feature series protagonists already developed by the individual authors; other authors opt to explore new ground. All are well written, and make it clear that these experts on medieval murder are also knowledgeable about everyday life in 14th century Britain and Europe.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

The Medieval Murderers

The Medieval Murderers,  are, see left to right, Bernard Knight, Philip Gooden, Simon Beaufort, Susanna Gregory, Karen Maitland and Ian Morson,.

Bernard Knight  was born 3 May 1931. He is a British forensic pathologist and writer. He became a Home Office pathplogist in 1965  and was appointed Professor of  Forensic Pathology, University of Wales College of Medicine, in 1980.

Philip Gooden writes both fiction and non-fiction. His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, and a Victorian sequence, the most recent title for which is The Durham Deception. Philip Gooden also writes books on language, including Who’s Whose? and Faux Pas?, which won the English Speaking Union award for the best English Language book of 2006. He was chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2007-8.

Michael Jecks is the author of thirty-two novels in his Templar series, all published by Headline and Simon & Schuster. A past chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association, he is also a founder of the Historical Writers’ Association and Medieval Murderers. He is a regular speaker at libraries and festivals worldwide. He is currently working on the final novel in his Hundred Years War trilogy.

Simon Beaufort is the pseudonym of Susanna Gregory and Beau Riffenburgh when they write jointly. Together they have written eight Geoffrey Mappestone novels and contributed to several Medieval Murderer books.  Recently, they have ventured into more modern times The Nimrod Murders is set in early 20th century London, and The Murder House takes place in 21st century Bristol.

Susanna Gregory was raised in Bristol, she early on became familiar with its great medieval history. After graduating from university, she spent three years in Leeds, as an officer in the West Yorkshire Police, where she was exposed to numerous unpleasant practices and grisly details, which have contributed to her characters and plots. Upon leaving the police, she conducted post-graduate studies at the University of Durham before earning a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her primary post-doctoral research has investigated environmental contamination in the world’s seal population by looking at the build-up of pollutants – particularly heavy metals – in the teeth and bones of different seal species. She has also done fieldwork with whales and walruses, and has spent seventeen field seasons working with marine mammals in the Arctic or Antarctic, as well as many years lecturing on Antarctic tourist ships. At the undergraduate and graduate level, she has taught and supervised research in comparative anatomy and biological anthropology. She has also served as an environmental consultant, including working on the Greenpeace Climate Change Database.
She now lives in a hamlet in southwest Wales with her husband Beau Riffenburgh, who is also a writer, see Simon Beaufort.

Karen Maitland  was born 1st January  1956. She is a British author of medieval thriller fiction. Maitland has an honours degree in Human Communication and doctorate in Psycholinguistics.Karen has now recently moved to the lovely county of Devon, having lived for a number of years in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln, which together with the wild salt-marshes of Norfolk, provide great inspiration for her novels.

Ian Morson was born in 1947 in Derby. He is the author of the Oxford based Falconer series.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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