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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
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 Knightwas 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.
Jecksis 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
She now lives in a hamlet in
southwest Wales with her husband Beau Riffenburgh, who is also a writer, see
born 1stJanuary1956. 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
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.