Friday, October 17, 2014

The Killer of Pilgrims

Michaelhouse College entered 1358 in financial shambles thank to Wynewyk's creative accounting in A Vein of Deceit.  Attempting to rebalance the books, Master Langerlee took on more students and the food - historically poor - has become scarce as well.  He also accepted the patronage of wealthy and repellent Emma de Colvyll who, in exchange for masses said for her late husband, promised to replace the leaking Michaelhouse roof.  Unfortunately for Matthew Bartholomew, his college's deal meant he was now private physician to the devil - a cranky devil who doesn't want her infected tooth pulled, and whose romance-reading granddaughter has set her sights on the doctor.  Meanwhile, Cambridge was, for once, free of town/gown battles, but only because there was a war of jokes between the colleges and the less-affluent hostels.  Oh, and someone was stealing pilgrims' badges.  Just an ordinary winter in Cambridge.

Well, until someone found John Drax's body behind the tiles intended for the Michaelhouse roof, a death quickly followed by that of Emma de Colvyll's daughter.  Are these deaths connected to the thefts, the war of practical jokes, or both?  Brother Michael, as Senior Proctor, needs to find out before the college/hostel conflict spreads from the University to the town and, as usual, enlists Matthew's help.

As a mystery, The Killer of Pilgrims is OK.  Gregory supported her conclusion and I didn't guess the culprit right away, but the final scene was a bit far fetched and the solution wasn't particular memorable. As entertainment, however, it ranks a little higher.  There's plenty of action, and several well-integrated comic scenes, including one where four physicians (three of them quite drunk) experiment with pitch, oil, and assorted chemicals in an attempt to create a light brighter and steadier than a candle.  Needless to say, it does not go well, but the disaster made me laugh on my commute home.

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