The Herald of Hell: A Brother Athelstan Novel of Medieval London, by Paul Doherty, (Severn House, Creme de la Crime), 240 pages, release date 1 January, 2016
Paul Doherty’s The Herald of Hell is a fun, quick read that brings to life an interesting moment in English history. In 1381, London, its population still reduced by the plague epidemic of forty years earlier, finds itself on the brink of an uprising of the Upright Men, the poor and disenfranchised, heavily burdened by taxes and eager to wreak violence on those with more comfortable, secure lives.
At the heart of the mystery is an encrypted document that may (or may not) tell the day of the uprising and that many factions are eager to obtain. England is under the rule of a child-king, Richard II, who is manipulated by his uncle, John of Gaunt. As is often the case during such minorities, England is riddled with factions, each hoping to use the uprising for its own purposes. When the clerk of Gaunt’s “fixer” is found hanged in a brothel, Brother Athelstan finds himself on the case. Meanwhile, the Herald of Hell blows his trumpet outside the homes of the wealthy in the night, threatening them with death and damnation.
For anyone with an interest in English history, particularly those fascinated by the role religious tensions have played in the nation’s politics, The Herald of Hell is a delightful read offering both mystery and a well-grounded depiction of life in the late 14th Century.
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