Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - A Medieval Mystery Featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke

Paul C. Doherty is an English writer, with a doctorate in history , who writes historical mysteries and novels under the pennames Anna Apostolou, Michael Clynes, Ann Dukthas, Paul Harding, and Vanessa Alexander, as well as his own name, P.C. Doherty. My favorite series, though, is the series he wrote under the name C.L. Grace, the medieval mysteries featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke.

The first book in the series, A Shrine of Murders, introduced Kathryn, a physician and chemist who practiced in fifteenth-century Canterbury. Grace based the character on the women doctors who played vital roles in English medieval medicine.

When a series of deaths paralyze Canterbury, and threaten the shrine that draws pilgrims from all over Europe, Kathryn is asked by town officials to investigate. She's joined in her investigation by Colum Murtagh, an Irish solder for the crown. The seven books in the series tell the story of the developing relationship between Kathryn and Colum, despite the fact that Kathryn's husband disappeared during the Wars of the Roses, a participant in the losing side of the wars.

The Kathryn Swinbrooke series has a marvelous cast of characters, beginning with Kathryn, Colum, and Kathryn's friend and housekeeper, Thomasina. Fifteenth century England is a fascinating period, when women could practice medicine. The history and details are well-developed in these books.

A Shrine of Murders by C.L. Grace is my selection for Friday's "Forgotten" Books, but once you read the first "Medieval Mystery featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke", I think you'll read the rest of the series.

A Shrine of Murders by C.L. Grace. St. Martin's Press, ©1993. ISBN 0-312-09388-8 (hardcover), 195p.


Helen Ginger said...

Gracious! That's an amazing number of pen names. Wow!

The series sounds interesting. I think I'll look for it.


Lesa said...

Isn't an emormous number of pen names? Sort of like John Creasey, who wrote under J.J. Marric, and a bunch of other names.

I really like this series, Helen.

Jen said...

Lesa, how does this compare with Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death? I love that series so far, and this sounds like it would be similar - so something I would enjoy.

Lesa said...


Similar background, but not quite as deep into the gory details. A little more detailed as to daily life in Canterbury in that period, and the life of a female apothecary and physician. I'd say Franklin's is heavier into the language while Grace is more of an investigative mystery.

Let's put it like this. My favorite mysteries have good characters and plot. If you read for character and plot, you'll probably like it Jen. With Mistress of the Art of Death, I think readers who appreciate language will enjoy that. I don't read Grace for language.

Let me know if that answers your question.

Jen said...

Yep, sure does. My favorite elements of books are the characters. If I can't connect with the characters somehow, I'm usually less than thrilled with the book.

Thanks, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Yes, I've been known to read 100 pages, and then say, I really don't care about any of the characters in this book, and then drop it. Character, character, character!

Cathy said...

Another character-driven reader here! I've read this book and enjoyed it, but I'm having trouble getting my hands on the second book in the series, The Eye of God. Bummer!

Lesa said...

I'm with you, Cathy, and I understand your frustration. There's only 1 copy of Steven Havill's second book in our library system. And, I had to borrow the first and the third from outside. It gets frustrating when they're hard to find.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I know you'll read the rest of them. I picture your house as one built of books.

Lesa said...

What a nice thought, Patti! There's not as many books here as you would think, though. Most of them are in the spare bedroom, and it's TBR closet. It would be totally out of control, though, if I didn't work in a library.