Doherty’s medieval sleuths

The growing popularity of the historical mystery has led to many more authors entering the genre, especially female authors and, not surprisingly, more female sleuths have appeared as well.  However, back in the early 1990s, Kathryn Swinbrook, the creation of Paul Doherty’s C.L. Grace pseudonym, was one of the few females hunting down criminals.  The daughter of the apothecary of Canterbury in the reign of Edward IV in the mid-15th century, she first appeared in A Shrine of Murders in 1993.  Swinbrook struggles to establish herself as the new town physician when her father dies as the all-male guild opposes her presence.  Her deductive skills are never questioned however, as she solves various crimes throughout the city.  Six more books follow with A Feast of Poisons in 2004 being the most recent.  The supporting characters of Swinbrook’s servant, Thomasina, and an Irish mercenary, Colum Murtagh, are also developed over the course of the series and the theme of feminism in medieval times is present throughout.

An entirely different character from Swinbrook is Sir Roger Shallot, a rogue during the reign of Henry VIII, presented by Michael Clynes, yet another Doherty pseudonym.  First appearing in The White Rose Murders in 1991, Shallot, accompanied by his friend Benjamin Daunbey, investigates conspiracies and murder during those turbulent days.  Acting as narrator in the stories, Shallot seldom hesitates to drop names or promote himself as the hero, but in the end, the solutions to the crimes are well-thought out and interesting.  The six-book series, however, died out in 1997.

The last incarnation of Doherty that I’ll be looking at today is Paul Harding, whose series focuses on young Brother Athelstan, clerk to the coroner of London, Sir John Cranston, in 1336.  These books are a bit more dark than the others, but the details about life in London are still vivid and the plots and characters quite clever.  Doherty wrote seven entries in this series under the Harding name, beginning with The Nightengale Gallery in 1991, then, like with the Anna Apostolou series, he dropped the false name and wrote the final three Sorrowful Mysteries under his own name.

We’ll wind up our look at Paul Doherty tomorrow by examining what he’s writing about now and what to expect from him later this year.


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