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Knight, Bernard - 'The Elixir of Death'
Paperback: 368 pages (Aug. 2006) Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 0743492153

Sir John De Wolve (aka 'Crowner John'), the King's Coroner for the county of Devon accompanied by his closest assistants has had a long ride on horse from Exeter across country to arrive at the coast, at which he can examine the slaughtered bodies of three seamen. After holding an inquest and questioning witnesses, he returns back to Exeter, his hometown, but a few days later there is another savage murder done in similar manner. Investigation of this and the earlier ones reveals some indication of strange monks wearing cowls being seen near the locations of the murders. There is also a lot of reference to alchemy and turning base metals into gold.

The investigation is very interesting but there is some distraction for Crowner John, as the Coroner has a very complicated domestic life which takes one's attention off of the main story. He is constantly rowing with his strange wife, mainly about his own indiscretions and seeks solace in the arms of his Mistress but he also has a lover with whom he needs to meet for private business reasons!

Bernard Knight, or to give him his official title, Professor Bernard Knight CBE, is a working professor of forensic Pathology and obviously knows his speciality very well and has written nine previous novels in this series with the main character a County Coroner in 12th Century England. The new reader does not need to have read the previous novels to read and enjoy this novel, the ELIXIR OF DEATH, as the story is complete in itself and the author takes great pains to explain to the new reader the historical background and language useful to the story is clarified in an extensive glossary in the front.

A detective story with a medieval setting, written by a forensic pathologist; the historical basis is very authentic and most of the characters actually existed in fact.

If you are looking for great history and a good read, you will not be disappointed.

Terry Halligan, England
January 2007

last updated 19/01/2007 14:26