The Waxman Murders
by P. C. Doherty
Cover Artist: Sally Taylor
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312533960
Date: 07 December 2010 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
P.C. Doherty, a prolific author of historical mysteries, places his latest Hugh Corbett Mystery, The Waxman Murders, in Canterbury in 1303. Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal for Edward I, investigates the death of a local merchant and banker for King Edward. Evidence points to the man's wife, the beautiful Lady Adelicia. The King has also instructed him to find a treasure map of a Saxon burial horde in the possession of a visiting merchant from the Hanseatic League. He reaches Canterbury just as the death of the merchant and his family occurs.
The Hanseatic merchant, his wife, son, and maid were found hanged in the guest manor of Sir Walter Castledene, his partner and host. Guards posted outside saw no one enter. The family's bodyguard has disappeared, and the victims show no other sign of violence.
In the previous murder, a doctor and a priest had to break into a locked room where they found the banker with his head bashed in. His wife's cloak had bloodstains and Sir Walter found bloodied napkins in her locked bedroom. She had been elsewhere with a lover, but to use him as an alibi might alienate any judge or jury.
Corbett detects lies and subterfuges associated with both crimes. Unlike many sleuths, he fears for his life especially after several crossbow bolts with attached notes barely miss him. Many people want the treasure map and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Colbert has no lack of suspects, but access to the victims remains unclear.
Doherty shares his medieval setting with others such as Ellis Peters and Margaret Frazer. Like Peters' Cadfael and Frazer's Joliffe, Corbett must use astute observation and logic to find the murderer. Doherty, like Frazer, also uses traveling players as spies. An accomplished storyteller, he has written some eighty historical mysteries with many settings. He has used the Middle Ages for several as well ancient Egypt and Greece.