Shroud of Dishonour (A Templar Night Mystery)
by Maureen Ash
Cover Artist: Griesbach & Martucci
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425237908
Date: 05 October 2010 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Bascot de Marin's Webpage / Show Official Info /
Shroud of Dishonor continues Maureen Ash's series of Templar Knight mysteries with Bascot de Marins healed and ready to return to the Holy Wars. The murder of a prostitute in the Chapel of the Templars' Lincoln enclave ensnares de Marins and delays his departure. Women are not allowed on Templar property, and all Templar Knights and many servants swear to refrain from sex. The prostitute also has a pouch with thirty pieces of silver.
De Marins honors his vows, but comes to fear someone wants to discredit the Templars. The killing of another well-to-do prostitute with a cross pattée, the Templar symbol, carved on her left breast adds to his belief. A purse of thirty pieces of silver left by the corpse leads de Mains to conclude it represents betrayal, but whether by the woman or by a knight dishonoring his oath remains unclear.
No one saw the killer. However, a young maidservant next door observed a hooded figure early in the morning at door of the second victim and, while unable to see his face, did see an expensive broach fastening the cloak Templars give their property to the order and are only allowed limited possessions and no jewelry, but de Marins knew some held back the odd piece.
Supporting characters provide interest, especially the strong women and the young scribe, a protégé of de Marins. Nicolla de la Haye, hereditary castellan of Lincoln castle and Camville's wife show the important role some women played in that period. Adele Delorme, the second victim, and Constance Turner who lived next door to her show other examples. Gianni, the scribe, has the ability to marshal the insights needed to solve the murders.
Ash loves the medieval period and uses her knowledge to create her novels. The first, The Alehouse Murders , appeared in 2007 and others have followed yearly. Readers may find similarities with Ellis Peters' Cadfael mysteries set some seventy years earlier in Shrewsbury. Like de Marins, Cadfael participated in the crusades, was imprisoned by the Saracens, and took orders, in his case with the Benedictines. De Marins works with Sheriff Gerard Camville while Cadfael had Sheriff Hugh Beringer. Cadfael is the more likable of the two sleuths.
Ash provides plenty of false trails before moving to a fast-paced climax. Some may feel she relies too much on a vision of sorts that brings needed insights. The mystery should appeal to those interested in the Templars, the Crusades, and the medieval period.