Historic mysteries are a favorite of mine, and I have several series that I enjoy from different periods. Now, I have a new favorite, a medieval mystery that kept me completely fascinated with the characters, the historic detail, and the plot that was somewhat complicated by medieval laws (both Church and State) and that kept the story grounded in its time period.
Season of the Raven
The story opens with a kind of prologue about the murder of a young girl and from the point of view of the murderer.
Chapter I moves to a third person pov describing Sir Faucon de Ramis, a young knight who is on his way to the village of Blacklea at the request of his uncle, the Bishop of Hereford. On his way, he notes the presence of ravens circling and assumes they are gathering over the carrion of some animal.
When he reaches his uncle's home, Faucon discovers that his uncle wishes to appoint him as Keeper of the Pleas, whose duties included investigating sudden deaths (natural or unnatural) because of the potential of filling the royal coffers. Faucon, a second son, is delighted at the benefits that will come to him in this position.
He has little time to adjust or learn because the next morning, he is summoned to hold an inquest of a miller found trapped and drowned in his mill wheel. Faucon is saddled with an extremely difficult monk as his clerk. Brother Edmund is a man unable to hold his tongue, and is easy to dislike as he speaks without respect and without permission. He has obviously been a trial to the Bishop and will continue to be one for Faucon.
Although the miller's death appears to be accidental, the result of a drunken accident, on closer examination, the death is determined to be murder.
The complicated laws of the time are fascinating as are the duties of the Keeper of the Pleas (or Coronarius or Crowner--which later becomes Coroner).
The characters, both major and minor, are fully formed, the details of medieval life are woven seamlessly into the story creating a microcosm of medieval life that is surprisingly vivid, and the plot is skillfully handled.
All of the threads are neatly and believably accounted for, although some will certainly be continued in the next novel. In addition, the conclusion returns once again to the pov of the girl's killer as he contemplates his next victim (this murder has just discovered, but unsolved), and so the stage is set for the main thrust of the next book.
I really loved this one, largely because of the way the characters came to life, but also because the world Domning creates is so easily visualized.
Domning has written a number of romances, but this novel is no romance; it is an exceptionally well written mystery with well researched detail. I can't wait for the next one.
I give this one 5/5 stars.
Historic Mystery. 2014. Print version: 243 pages.