Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 288pp
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Maureen Ash on the WEB: website (there just isn't too much info to find on this author)
For eight long years, Templar Bascot de Marins was a prisoner of the Saracens in the Holy Land. Upon his return to England, he was sent to Lincoln castle to recover from wounds both physical and spiritual and became a valued member of Lady Nicolaa de la Haye's retinue. She is in great need of Bascot's talent for solving murders...
Convinced he is of noble blood, Aubrey Tercel uses his position as a member of Lady Nicolaa's sisters's court to come to Lincoln to find his birth mother. While he's in town, his good looks and charm are noticed by Clarice Adgate, a furrier's much younger wife.
When Tercel's body is found on the castle ramparts, it'd be easy to call his death an act of revenge by the jealous husband, but Templar Bascot de Marins is convinced that the furrier and his wife were mere distractions from the true killer. After another servant of the court is brutally attacked, Bascot, with the help of his former protege Gianni, must solve the case quickly before the murderer claims another life...
British author, Maureen Ash brings readers the sixth book in her Templar Knight mystery series, A Deadly Penance. Set in England in the year 1203, this historical cozy will appeal to readers who have a penchant for history. With rich period detail and language from a time gone by, readers will find themselves lost in the decadent world of court life and culture. Bascot de Marins and his protege Gianni remind readers of forerunners to Sherlock and Dr. Watson, with their intuitive knowledge and inventive tactics. A great mystery for historical fiction fans as well as cozy enthusiasts!
Maureen Ash has created a series that will take readers to a time period that isn't often found in the cozy sub-genre. English cozies always tend to be slightly different than their American counterparts, but this setting was quite unique and I was excited to have the opportunity to review a book set against the backdrop of the Crusades, with a Templar knight as the protagonist. Being a former history major I was intrigued and Ash certainly did not disappoint. A Deadly Penance is the sixth book in the series, but readers will not be left wondering what is happening or why. It stands on it's own well and will probably draw in new readers as well as tried and true Maureen Ash fans.
Ash writes with a smooth style that flows naturally. Her use of formal language may be a bit hard for some readers to get used to, but I think it only adds to the overall feel of the book. Ash uses her descriptive prowess to show the reader every aspect of the scene and the history of each place, allowing them to feel the English rain against their faces and smell the wares from the streets. Ash provides a great deal of period detail that can bog the story down a little in some places, but I thought it was necessary to the story in most cases. Ash uses an array of characters within the court of Nicolaa de la Haye and her sister to bring this book to life.
The protagonist, Bascot de Marins, distinctly reminds we of Sherlock Holmes. He is somewhat reclusive, after suffering a great deal at the hands of the Saracens in the Holy Land and it has somehow changed the way he views the world. His way of viewing each clue is skewed and different from the average investigator which allows him to be more observant and resourceful. Bascot is calculating, intuitive and unconventional. I liked the fact that the author gives Bascot a good reason to be investigating this particular murder and that she allowed him to work in the company of others who were seeking the same resolution.
The mystery itself was well written and did not come with an obvious solution. It took me a while to ferret out the killer, which is always the case with the good ones. I either don't figure them out on my own or it takes me 'til just about the last minute to get it write, a hallmark of a good mystery writer. I liked the premise that Tercel was looking for links to his own heritage and how distractions seem to have clouded his purpose including the furrier's wife. Bascot seems to intuitively know that the furrier is not the killer, it's too simple, the pieces fitting together too easily. I like it when the crime isn't cut and dried.
I recommend this one to cozy and historical readers. There's a little something for both types of readers. Readers who enjoy this book, will want to go back and read the other five in the series, to learn more about the interpid Bascot de Marins if for no other reason. Ash has created a great sleuth with a mystery set in a unique time and place.
A Deadly Penance is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Maureen Ash was born in London, England, and has had a lifelong interest in British medieval history. Visits to castle ruins and old churches have provided inspiration for her novels. She enjoys Celtic music, browsing in bookstores and Belgian chocolate. Maureen now lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
The publisher is offering one copy of A Deadly Penance by Maureen Ash for giveaway.
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