Monday, September 8, 2008
The Cup of Ghosts - Paul Doherty
By 1322, Mathilde of Westminster was considered the finest physician in London. But in her years as lady-in-waiting to Princess Isabella, she was drawn into the murky politics of the English court, where sudden, mysterious death was part of the tapestry of life. Many years later, Mathilde looks back and chronicles her turbulent life. With her sharp, suspicious intellect ready to distinguish between a fatality and an unnatural death, Mathilde is confronted by a host of chilling murders. The source of these horrors is the fierce political rivalry between Philip of France and Edward of England. This manifests itself in a series of gruesome killings, one of which actually took place during Edward II's Coronation, when a knight of the Royal Household, Sir John Baquelle was crushed to death.
Paul Doherty's book was nothing like I imagined. I think in end it read more like an historical fiction story than a murder mystery. I think the most interesting part is how well Doherty knows the period he is writing about and how he makes the day's political machinations very much a part of his story. Sometimes you have a feel of the period but here you really are in the period with it's main characters, political decisions, templar's persecution and arranged marriages. And all this is an integral part of the plot. I liked how he gave plausible explanations for Isabella and Edward's behaviour in the beginning of their wedding.
I found the murder part in itself a bit confusing, there are a lot of characters, a lot of deaths and there's some lack of urgency for it's resolution. I was unprepared for how young Mathilde was going to be in the beginning and it seemed a bit unbelievable that she would know so much and understand the political intrincacies so well. Isabella, who in the beginning seems to be the stronger personality ends up dependent from Mathilde as her only friend. However the set of the period is so well done that I want to continue reading almost for it alone, I want to know more about that period in history and more about Isabella and how Doherty explains what went wrong with her wedding. There's also a portuguese character that has already been introduced as a villain so the lure to continue is irresistible.