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Sunday 27 December 2015

'Falconer's Crusade' by Ian Morson

Published by Ostara, reprint of 1994
ISBN 9781906288501

This is an exciting murder mystery set in 13th century England.  Regent Master William Falconer of Aristotle College, Oxford University is a progressive Aristotelian educationalist who finds himself having to solve the murder of a French servant girl.  His new student, Thomas Symon, arrives in Oxford in the evening and, as he tries to find the College he finds, instead, the girl's body.  When others reach the body he is accused of the murder and he flees.  Fortuitously he meets his future teacher in an alley  and Falconer hides him from pursuit,even before he realises that this is the young student he is expecting.  The traditional enmity of town and gown means that students are always suspects in any trouble.    The rumbling atmosphere of distrust in Oxford means that all Oxford scholars must move carefully as one of the town constables warns Falconer. 

The background to this tale is superbly done so that the reader can appreciate the attitudes of academics and townsmen of the day, and picture their surroundings.  Education for students in 1364 can be  seen through the teachings they receive and through the disputations of their teachers.  The position of those who live in the Jewish area is also well shown.    These are frightening times outside Oxford too as a struggle for political supremacy becomes violent and Oxford becomes involved in that struggle.

Falconer eventually uses his logical skills to identify the murderer and the reasons for that murder in the satisfying denouement.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
7 more full length adventures for William Falconer follow this one.  Ian Morson also writes stories featuring a Venetian at Kubilai Khan's Court and a pair of shady characters in Georgian England.

Ian Morson was born in 1947 in Derby. In 1965 he won a scholarship to Oxford where he studied the Russian language and literature. He started writing for real at the age of 42, after having dabbled in (unperformed) radio plays and (unpublished) poetry.  The first in the series of Falconer novels was published in 1994. He promotes his own novels with radio interviews, and bookshop talks along with the Medieval Murderers group of writer. He lives in Hastings.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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