First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Andrew Gaddes, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
I was keen to give the work of Andrew Gaddes a try, as it explores not only a mystery, but includes a dose English history, which can be highly entertaining. When a beggar is found murdered and placed in a compromising position on a church altar in Bottesford, panic ensues in the small English town. It is the mid-14th century and Rome has a firm grasp over its congregations. Worried that something will come to pass, the Bishop of Lincoln agrees to send an emissary, Thomas Lester, to investigate and report back. However, it would seem the Archbishop of Canterbury has his own man in the region, looking to explore whether the pagan rituals rumoured to be rife in the area might need a more powerful fist to quell them. Lester comes upon a community with many colourful characters, all of whom offer plausible reasons for being the killer. As Lester works, he must worry that the killer could strike again, all the while trying to protect this corner of England from being painted in a poor light. There is little time and Lester possesses an explosive secret that he cannot let the general public discover, as it could undermine his abilities to bring order to the region. Lester’s personal and professional lives clash in this piece, pinning criminal law against that of the Church, as well as personal morals that seem to conflict with ecclesiastical tenets. Gaddes does well to offer up a decent tale that will keep the reader wondering until the very end!
I enjoy historical mysteries, as they are usually able to mix curiosity with education in equal measure. Gaddes bit off quite a bit here and presented the reader with a decent narrative, though it missed the mark for me. Thomas Lester’s character has some interesting aspects, including his ties to the Church and ability to retrieve information from most anyone he meets. He may be a Church emissary, but he is human and his personal longings cannot be completely neutralised, even with a religious background. Gaddes portrays Lester as a gritty man who seeks the truth while trying to deflect his own personal opinion on occasion, which is a struggle throughout the piece. His Templar background is sure to offer some additional flavour to an already complex character, as the reader will see throughout. Many of the other characters serve to offer interesting perspectives to fill the narrative with different angles, sure to offer up a discussion amongst those who enjoy book bantering. Witchcraft, Church resistance, and wariness of outsiders prove to be themes embedded in the many characters Gaddes offers to the curious reader. While the story seems sound and the narrative progresses nicely, I could not find myself connecting with it throughout. I am no perfect reader, but something had me skimming rather than basking in a story that could have been so enjoyable. Perhaps it was the lure of the dust jacket blurb, but I expected so much more for my personal reading pleasure. It fell short for me, though I cannot expect that others will feel the same. Try it and offer your own opinions, for Gaddes certainly has the tools for a successful novel. Perhaps I am just not seeing the diamond embedded herein!
Kudos, Mr. Gaddes, for what certainly could be a stellar piece. I can only hope that others see something I did not. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what you serve up next to the curious reader!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons