Siege of Heaven by Tom Harper

Siege of Heaven by Tom Harper.  This final piece of Harper’s trilogy about the First Crusade is more historical fiction than mystery, but still a vivid, richly-detailed adventure.  As with the first two stories, The Mosaic of Shadows and The Knights of the Cross, the principal character is Demetrios Askiates, an emissary and sometimes spy for the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople.  Demetrios has been with the crusaders since they left Constantinople swearing an oath to the emperor to recover his lands from the Turks on their way to Jerusalem.  Siege of Heaven begins with the funeral of Bishop Adhemar in Antioch.  The Army of God has finally captured the city and held it from the Muslim relief army, but the princes leading the soldiers are now divided about the future and the bishop’s death leaves the pilgrims without a leader as well.  The story describes the final eighteen months of the crusade as the army moves slowly down the coast to the final battle for the holy city.  In the center of it all is Demetrios and his loyal protector Sigurd from the emperor’s Varangian bodyguard, as well as his other companions.  No one mysteriously has their throat slit or topples over poisoned, but there are lots of battles and action, plenty of betrayal among the princes, false prophets, an English pirate and a new enemy in the form of the Egyptians. 

Readers who enjoy this type of fictional inside look at historical warfare might also like Simon Scarrow’s series detailing the adventures of Quintus Licinius Cato with the Second Legion of the Roman army as they travel through Germany and later as they do battle in Britannia.

For other stories that feature Jerusalem as the setting for a mystery, I would recommend Simon Beaufort’s Murder in the Holy City, the first mystery featuring Sir Geoffrey Mappestone, who investigates the death of several monks and knights.  This tale takes place a year after the First Crusade ends and several historical characters appearing in Harper’s trilogy also appear here.  Set one hundred years later is Alan Gordon’s tale of the Third Crusade, The Widow of Jerusalem, part of the Fool’s Guild series.

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