by Pat McIntosh
I picked this one up at a recent public library trip after a recommendation from Deb. I was hoping for a satisfying mystery with interesting characters and a clearly drawn setting. I definitely found all of that here.
Gil Cunningham, a young man struggling with his desire to do right by his family and his knowledge that he is not fitted for the priesthood, discovers a dead body. Because the body is on the grounds of Glasgow Cathedral, of which his uncle is a Canon, he is given the task of finding the dead woman’s killer.
I’m sure that this book has been compared to Ellis Peter’s Cadfael series. Oddly enough, I was more charmed by Gil’s story than Cadfael’s. I especially liked the sense that Gil’s faith was very real to him–I felt that he took it seriously and that McIntosh took his taking it seriously, seriously. While I know the medieval church had its problems, there were some simple devout people. I very much enjoyed the fact that we were given a chance to see one of them.
I do have some lingering questions, mostly about the character of Alys. While I know from my classes that there were extremely intelligent and well educated women in the middle ages, such as Christine de Pizan, or even Heloise, I wasn’t clear on how Alys had gained her knowledge. I believe that masons like her father were highly respected and wealthy men, but he didn’t seem particularly educated (intelligent, yes, but that’s not the same thing). Maybe McIntosh explains it a bit more in later books, but as it was I remained a bit puzzled.
I suppose I kept comparing this to Ellis Peters as I was reading, partly because of the medieval connection and partly because they’re both mysteries and so on. While I thought McIntosh did a marvellous job of setting the scene–conveying a sense of the society and time period, I did miss the sense of place that is so intense in Peters.
Final verdict? I’ll definitely be continuing with the series as I found this one both enjoyable and well-done.
Book source: public library