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Candle Flame by Paul Doherty
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This medieval murder mystery, set in 1381, takes us to the restless, dangerous Southwark district of London where a massacre is committed in the Barbican, the ancient keep adjoining the Candle-Flame tavern. John of Gaunt’s poll tax collector, his associates and guard are murdered in a locked room, and a large amount of gold goes missing. As more deaths follow, Brother Athelstan, Dominican friar and coroner’s clerk, is ready to listen to those who connect the murders to popular unrest and the rise of an avenger nicknamed Beowulf, but takes careful note of the other travelers in the inn and of the French threat to London.

This mystery began with a long prologue setting out the historical context and continued with a methodical exposition of clues. This will please readers who like to puzzle out a mystery in an orderly manner, but I found the long passages of exposition hard going, particularly as there were few paragraph breaks in the text and the chapters were extremely long. Much local color was provided that was fascinating but failed to advance the plot.

As the story proceeded there was more dialogue and it became easier to read, and by the end I could see the mystery was well plotted and had worked in a great deal of history. Candle Flame will reward the persistent, detail-oriented reader, but for my taste I felt it suffered from overmuch minutiae. ( )
  JaneSteen | Dec 27, 2014 |
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February, 1381. London lies frozen in the grip of one of the bitterest winters on record. The ever-rising taxes demanded by the Regent, John of Gaunt, are causing increasing resentment among the city's poor. When the seething unrest boils over into a bloody massacre at a splendid Southwark tavern, The Candle Flame, in which nine people, including Gaunt's tax collectors, their military escort and the prostitutes entertaining them, are brutally murdered, the furious Regent orders Brother Athelstan to get to the bottom of the matter. For not only has Gaunt's treasure trove been stolen, he has reason to believe a French spy is active along the Thames, carefully recording for his masters in the Louvre the state of English war cogs. And a professional assassin, Beowulf, who has sworn vengeance against Gaunt and his minions, also stalks the shadows.… (more)

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