Ian Morson writes a series about amateur sleuth, Oxford don William Falconer who has a 13th-century jones for solving murders. 1271 A.D. is rough times in Falconer and the Ritual of Death and there are any number of murders to be solved. A body is discovered in the walls of a house, abutting the Jewish quarter of Oxford, that is being torn down. A serving girl’s suicide isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Old murders and a ritual killing that sparked a mob re-surface with chilling resonance in present-day crimes. Templars are involved. The early days of the university, before the magnificent buildings, at the time when sewage ran right down the middle of the street, are described in fascinating architectural and quotidian detail.
Despite the grisly killings and the gutsy forensics carried out clandestinely in the religious and superstitious town, the book was larded with name upon name of new character to remember and it read a little drily. But still a compelling historical crime novel, reminiscent of the Brother Cadfael mysteries of Ellis Peters. I liked those when I read them and I liked this book. Just my thing– a celibate professor who wears the vow very very loosely and keeps a snowy owl in his manuscript-strewn lodgings. Several attractive and ultimately unavailable but interested women–bright and beautiful, we can deal with that. Some creepy plots and a terrific old blind rabbi. Layers of prevarication that threaten longstanding friendships. An exposition of the status of Jews in the Oxford ghetto. Falconer and the Ritual of Death was the sort of introduction that will make me hunt for other books in the series whenever I need a rest from too much modern.
Falconer and the Ritual of Death (William Falconer) Ian Morson | Severn House 2008