By the author of the Hugh Corbett series.
What are the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan about?
Written by English author and historian Paul C. Doherty (originally published under the name Paul Harding), this murder mystery series is set in 14th-century London, England.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan series is about a Dominican monk named Brother Athelstan, and John Cranston, a coroner; and starts At the time of the death of Edward III (1377), when his son John of Gaunt became regent of his nephew, King Richard II.
The series began with The Nightingale Gallery in 1991. Since then, more than twenty books and a couple of short stories have been published.
Brother Athelstan Books in Order:
Each book in the Brother Athelstan series is offering a different mystery, but the lives of the different characters and the historical background evolve from one book to the other.
- The Nightingale Gallery – In 1377, Sir Thomas Springall is foully murdered within a few days of the old king’s death. Sir John Cranston, the coroner of London, is ordered to investigate. He is assisted by Brother Athelstan, a penitent Dominican monk. From the sinister slums of Whitefriars to the barbaric splendor of the English Court, Cranston and Athelstan are drawn into a dark and terrifying web of intrigue…
- The Monk’s Tale (short story) – In 1376, at Bermondsey, Abbot Hugo is found murdered within his chamber and the door is locked from the inside. So how did the assassin commit such a dreadful crime? Coroner Sir John Cranston and Dominican monk Brother Athelstan are ordered to investigate.
- The House of the Red Slayer – December, 1377. As London prepares for Christmas, a great frost has the city in its icy grip; even the Thames is frozen from bank to bank. The Constable of the Tower of London, Sir Ralph Whitton, is found murdered in a cold bleak chamber. The door is still locked from the inside and guarded by trusted retainers. So how did the assassin get in? Brother Athelstan and Sir John Cranston are ordered to investigate.
- Murder Most Holy – London, 1379. Sir John Cranston is invited to a banquet at the Regent’s palace on the Thames. There he is trapped in a wager with Signor Gian Galeazzo, Lord of Cremona and owner of the manor, who challenges him to resolve the mystery within two weeks. Realizing that his reputation and future wealth now depend upon him solving this mystery, Cranston seeks the help of his faithful secretarius Brother Athelstan. However, Athelstan has problems of his own…
- The Anger of God – Autumn, 1379. The French are attacking the southern ports and the peasants are planning a revolt organized by a mysterious leader who proclaims himself as ‘IRA DEI’, the anger of God. When John of Gaunt’s plans to win over the merchant princes of London are plunged into chaos by a series of bloody murders, he turns to Sir John Cranston to bring the assassin to book and to recover a king’s ransom in gold which has disappeared.
- By Murder’s Bright Light – Winter, 1379. French privateers are attacking the southern coast and threaten London itself, the very heart of the nation. The situation becomes dire when an English flotilla of warships, with the colossal God’s Bright Light among them, drops anchor in the Thames; during the first night, the entire watch of the ship disappears without a trace. The series of murderous and strange incidents leads to Sir John and Brother Athelstan being summoned to resolve the mysteries on board the ill-omened warship.
- The House of Crows – It’s the Spring of 1380 and the Regent John of Gaunt needs money and supplies for his war against the French. Unfortunately, the members of parliament at Westminster are proving especially stubborn – and the Regent’s cause is not aided when some representatives from the shire of Shrewsbury are foully murdered. John of Gaunt orders Sir John Cranston, along with his trusty ally Brother Athelstan, to find the assassin before he loses every chance of obtaining the taxes he requires, before more innocent people are found dead.
- The Assassin’s Riddle – Summer, 1380. Brutal and sudden death is not uncommon in the foul alleys and streets of London. The corpse of a clerk has been pulled from the Thames. They drowned, but not before receiving a vicious blow to the back of the head. Then Bartholomew Drayton, a usurer and money-lender, is found dead in his strongroom, a crossbow bolt firmly embedded in his chest: a real mystery because the windowless strongroom was locked and barred from the inside. So who killed him? And how? And are the deaths connected?
- The Devil’s Domain – In the summer of 1380 a French captain is murdered in Hawkmere Manor – a lonely, gloomy dwelling place, otherwise known as the ‘Devil’s Domain’. The house is used by Regent John of Gaunt to house French prisoners, captured during the bloody battles waged between the French and the English on the Narrow Seas. Sir John Cranston and Brother Athelstan are summoned to investigate the mysterious death but their path is riddled with obstacles.
- The Field of Blood – After the discovery of three savagely murdered bodies in his parish, Brother Athelstan finds himself involved in the hunt for a dangerous killer. It is clear that two of the victims, a prostitute and a preacher, surprised an assassin who was then forced to kill them. But who the third victim is, and why someone has gone to so much trouble to kill him, remains a mystery.
- The House of Shadows – Autumn, 1380. Brother Athelstan is very busy. He and his parish council are preparing for the annual Christmas mystery play when a series of brutal murders occur at a Southwark tavern. Two young whores are found slain but their deaths are only the beginning of a series of gruesome killings which occur around the parish of St Erconwald’s.
- Bloodstone – December, 1380. When the corpse of Sir Robert Kilverby is discovered in a locked room, Brother Athelstan accompanies the King’s coroner to investigate. Sir Robert had in his possession a priceless relic, a sacred bloodstone, which has now disappeared. Did Sir Robert die of natural causes or was he murdered? Athelstan is skeptical of rumors of a curse hanging over Sir Robert, but when it is discovered that a second old soldier has been gruesomely slain on the same night, the rumors no longer seem so far-fetched…
- The Straw Men – January, 1381. Guests of the Regent, John of Gaunt, Brother Athelstan, and Sir John Cranston have been attending a mystery play performed by the Straw Men, Gaunt’s personal acting troupe. The evening’s entertainment, however, is suddenly and brutally interrupted by the violent deaths of two of Gaunt’s guests, their severed heads left on stage.
- The Confession of Brother Athelstan (short story) – Brother Athelstan accompanies Sir John Cranston, Lady Cranston, and Benedicta to a friendly joust, which turns fatal; they must then determine who tampered with the knights’ equipment.
- Candle Flame – February, 1381. London lies frozen in the grip of one of the bitterest winters on record. The ever-rising taxes demanded by the Regent, John of Gaunt, are causing increasing resentment among the city’s poor. The seething unrest boils over into a bloody massacre at a splendid Southwark tavern, The Candle Flame, in which nine people, including Gaunt’s tax collectors, are brutally murdered. The furious Regent orders Brother Athelstan to get to the bottom of the matter.
- The Book of Fires – February, 1381. A ruthless killer known as the Ignifer – Fire Bringer – is rampaging through London, bringing agonising death and destruction in his wake. He appears to be targeting all those involved in the recent trial and conviction of the beautiful Lady Isolda Beaumont, burned at the stake for the murder of her husband. As the late Sir Walter Beaumont was a close friend of the Regent, John of Gaunt orders Sir John Cranston and Brother Athelstan to investigate.
- The Herald of Hell – May, 1381. As the Great Revolt draws ever nearer, rebels openly roam the streets of London, waiting for the violence to begin. Their mysterious envoy, the Herald of Hell, appears at night all over the city, striking terror into the hearts of those who oppose them. But who is he? When his chancery clerk is found hanged in a notorious Southwark brothel, the ruthless Thibault, John of Gaunt’s Master of Secrets, summons Brother Athelstan to investigate.
- The Great Revolt – June, 1381. The rebel armies are massed outside London, determined to overturn both Crown and Church. The Regent, John of Gaunt, has headed north, leaving his nephew, the boy-king Richard II, unprotected. Brother Athelstan would prefer to be protecting his parishioners at St Erconwald’s. Instead, he finds himself investigating a royal murder that took place fifty-four years earlier whilst the rebel leaders plot the present king’s destruction.
- A Pilgrimage to Murder – Summer, 1381. The Great Revolt has been crushed; the king’s peace was ruthlessly enforced. Brother Athelstan meanwhile is preparing for a pilgrimage to St Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury to give thanks for the wellbeing of his congregation. But preparations are disrupted when Athelstan is summoned to a modest house in Cheapside, the scene of a brutal triple murder. One of the victims was the chief clerk of the Secret Chancery of John of Gaunt. Could this be an act of revenge by the Upright Men, those rebels who survived the Great Revolt?
- Mansions of Murder – October, 1381. Brother Athelstan is summoned to the church of St Benet’s in Queenhithe to investigate the murder of a priest. Parson Reynaud has been found stabbed to death inside his own locked church. Other disturbing discoveries include an empty coffin and a ransacked money chest. Who would commit murder inside a holy church? Who would spirit away a corpse the night before the funeral – and who would be brave enough to steal treasure belonging to the most feared gang leader in London?
- The Godless – November, 1381. London has been rocked by a series of bizarre and brutal murders. The corpses of a number of prostitutes have been discovered, their throats slit, their bodies stripped; in each case, a blood-red wig has been placed on their heads. At the same time, a mysterious explosion rips through a royal war cog bound for Calais, killing all on board. Could there be a connection? Summoned to assist in the investigations by Sir John Cranston, Brother Athelstan uncovers rumors that the mysterious Oriflamme is responsible. But who – or what – exactly is he… and why has he suddenly reappeared after almost twenty years?
- The Stone Of Destiny – During the harsh winter of 1381 murder stalks the streets of London in all its grisly forms. The city’s prostitutes are falling prey to a silent, deadly assassin known as The Flayer who carefully peels his victims’ skins for his collection. At the same time, Westminster Abbey is plagued by a series of hideous poisonings. Could there be a connection between these brutally violent deaths and the stone, which the English crown cherishes as a symbol of its rule over Scotland? Then there are the two former Upright Men who are found mysteriously hanged in the Piebald Tavern, close to Brother Athelstan’s parish church of St Erconwald…
- The Hanging Tree – London. January, 1382. The Crown’s treasury has been robbed. Tens of thousands of silver and gold coins mysteriously lifted from the most secure chamber in the kingdom; the five Clerks of the Dark who guarded the king’s treasure brutally garrotted. Sir John Cranston and Brother Athelstan are appointed to investigate – but Athelstan has problems of his own. Clement the Key Master, who helped fashion the complex locks to the royal treasure chamber, has been found strangled in the nave of Athelstan’s parish, St Erconwald’s church.
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