One Corpse Too Many

I had to get right back to Brother Cadfael. This is the second of the series.

The story is set against the backdrop of the civil war between Maud (Matilda) and Stephen for possession of the throne of England in 1138 AD. After 19 years of war, Stephen gained full control, but had to make an agreement with Maud that her son would become king next in line.

In this story, Stephen brings his army to Shrewsbury to lay siege to the castle of an opponent. With the taking of the castle, the king ordered the deaths of all 94 captives as a warning to all who oppose him.

When Brother Cadfael supervises the burial, he discovers an extra body, then discovers that one of the body was killed by garrote. Following the clues, he is led to the site of the death where he discovers the jeweled top of the hilt of a dagger, the key to identifying the murderer.

It is not so simple, naturally. There are four other key characters with their own story lines. In the end, the truth is hard-won.

As often happens in Ellis’s books, some events seem too convenient, and we never fear for the life or well-being of the good Brother.

Still, an enjoyable read

Mike Lawrence

Istanbul Passage

This was one of my penny books. If you buy from Amazon, you may know that they let book distributors list their options to buy listed books, in competition with Amazon. Many are used books listed as low as a penny, the only catch being that they charge shipping, usually $3.99, but I still call them penny books.

I was drawn in by the first line of the back cover: Istanbul survived the Second World War as a magnet for refugees and spies. I am not disappointed. The story follows Leon Bauer as he smuggles a man into the city, only to end up shooting his boss. Bauer is an American civilian working under the table for Tommy at the American Consulate, mostly, in 1945, helping bring Jews in so they could transit on to Palestine.

But the story is not as simple as that. Kanon explores a wide range of emotions as he has Bauer try to uncover the reason why his friend Tommy turned against him and why someone else at the consulate is later murdered. Even as Bauer dances a quick two-step with the consulate staff, he has to protect himself from the Russians, the Turkish police, and the Turkish secret police, all while visiting his wife in a hospital. She is his one true love, but she has checked out, as in reality. She responds to no one, least of all Bauer.

Did I mention plot twists? Several.

This is a five-star if you like historical, mystery, thrillers.

Mike Lawrence