Counterfeit Madam: A Gil Cunningham Mystery
by Pat McIntosh
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Constable Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569479490
Date: 21 June 2011 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Set in medieval Scotland, Counterfeit Madam follows the investigations of Gil and Alys Cunningham. Gil, a notary and officer of the church, often finds himself embroiled in extra-legal matters such as murder. Called to aid his sister's godmother, Dame Isabella Torrance, ostensibly because of his ward, an heir to John Sempill, and his sister's wedding settlement from Dame Isabella, Gil is distracted by false coinage and murders.
Sempill has recent married Magdalen Boyd, also a godchild of the dame and wants to disinherit his heir, son of his ex-wife and a harper. Hoping for an heir of his body, he wants to revoke his earlier designation of Gil's ward. In exchange, he and his wife offer two properties in Glasgow to secure the boy's future. However, when the deeds for other properties are examined problems appear. Dame Isabella's ownership of property she plans to deed to Magdalen are disputed by others.
Meanwhile, as Gil looks over the property and the tenants, one a bawdy house, he encounters opposition from the craftsmen, but a warm welcome from the madam. On a second visit he is attacked and half drowned. Servants from the bawdy house rescue him causing gossip and friction with his wife Alys.
When Dame Isabella is murdered, few tears are shed. A nasty, domineering women, only her woman Annot and Magdalen mourn her passing. Finding the motive and the killer proves a difficult task. Suspects abound, but opportunity and the method of murder limits the field.
Filled with rich historical detail, the novel will also satisfy mystery fans. Female readers will enjoy the details of clothing and mores. McIntosh belongs to a rich group of authors using medieval settings such as P.C. Doherty and Margaret Frazer. The speech patterns and unfamiliar words may cause problem for some readers. McIntosh presents Latin and French phrases in English for the convenience of readers. This is the eighth novel featuring Gil so readers can expect more in the future.