REVIEW of The Canterbury Murders (Stanton & Barling #3) by E.M. Powell



Publication Date: November 12, 2020

About the Author: E.M. Powell’s historical thriller and medieval mystery Fifth Knight and Stanton & Barling novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She’s represented by Josh Getzler at HG Literary. Find out more by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter @empowellauthor


Canterbury. One of the holiest sites in twelfth-century England, and one of the unluckiest. Not only has the lead-lined roof of the monumental cathedral melted to ash in a conflagration, but now one of the stonemasons repairing the building has been murdered in a horrific manner. Fortunately for the archbishop, the king’s men, Stanton and Barling, are on their way to Canterbury, taking a pilgrimage for the sake of purging the soul (Barling) or simply to oblige a friend (Stanton). With their services commandeered, the two men have less than a week to solve the case–at which point King Henry will descend upon the cathedral, the site of his martyred “friend” Thomas Becket’s tomb.

This medieval thriller is the third outing of our dynamic duo of sharp-witted sleuths. Barling, wrapped up in his own unrequited guilt, has less to do with the investigation this time, while Stanton, dismayed to find that Barling’s friendship for him seems to have attenuated, makes most of the discoveries and logical deductions. As is to be expected in a thriller of this kind, the initial murder multiplies into another and then another, as Barling and Stanton canvas the town in search of a serial killer. In the end, Stanton must come to terms with the finality of his past love’s death while Barling must overcome his fears to save the one person who means the most to him.

As a Thomas Becket aficionado, I particularly appreciated seeing Powell’s portrayal of some of Becket’s chroniclers–and their varying approaches to accuracy when recording the saint’s miracles. The burning of the cathedral and subsequent repairs are depicted in glorious detail (as well as the dizzying height at which the stonemasons worked). Powell details in the Author’s Note how the 2019 fire at Notre Dame inspired some of her descriptions. Pilgrim badges, meat pies, leeches, herbalists, lime pits, and necromancy lend authenticity to the story and enhance the milieu of this medieval world. Although the ending felt somewhat rushed and some of the subplots could have wrapped up more elegantly, The Canterbury Murders is a solid medieval mystery with memorable characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Barling, I think it might be a good idea to put your boots back on,” he said, as the clerk made his way to him.

“Then you think wrong, Stanton.” Barling leaned heavily on his staff, the better to keep weight off his feet, his face etched with exhaustion and pain. “I am making a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage involves sacrifice.”

– The Canterbury Murders, by E.M. Powell


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