Again randomly picked from the aisle of my library this book was a treasured find. I love my British mysteries and I love them more if they are based in medieval area.
“The Magician’s death” is based some time during the early 14th century. Thought the story starts off in Paris, most of the plot is based in the Corfe Castle area in Dorset.
The plot is not complex but has several layers – all of them equally intriguing. There is firstly the political struggle between King Edward of England and King Phillip IV of France – they are both looking to unravel Friar Bacon’s Book of Secrets, which has been written in a secret code and will reveal the mysteries of the world. Both of them send their best man to Corfe Castle in the dead of the winter to hold a convention to break the cipher in which the book is written. Things start getting troublesome , when the french scholars start dying apparent natural deaths.
At the same time murders are being committed around the castle, where dead young women are being found, shot down by arrows for no conceivable reason. Then there are these outlaws that claim that they are innocent of these murders and speak of even worse “horror in the woods”. Lets not forget, Father Matthews – who lives almost an ascetic existence in his little church in the woods. All the murdered girls are students in his sunday classes – is he more than what he seems? If this isn’t enough, the King’s men report presence of pirates in the nearby coastel town, unexpected and seemingly suspicious. Are all these activties related?
Every good crime novel , needs a good detective, ours is Sir Hugh Corbett, King Edward’s right man. Melancholy with a sense for black humor, Corbett is still an instantly likeable character. Along with his advisor, the young Ranulf, Corbett tries to bring pieces of the puzzle together.
What worked for me as I read the book were the storylines and the characters. Though they are a dozen or more important characters in the book, Doherty manages to shape them out in the short spaces they occupy. The fact that I could empathaize with some of the characters of the book is a lot to say for a mystery novel.
The only place where the book falters is at the climax. Its predictable and slightly boring. The build up is pretty huge – political drama, jack the ripper like murders, accidental deaths, the creepy winter, dead bodies in the wood – and then the resolution is pretty unimpressive.
However, I think this would make an excellent movie actually. I would also definitely read more of Paul Doherty.