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    THE DEMON ARCHER by P. C. Doherty


    St. Martin's Minotaur, 1999/2001

    Lord Henry Fitzalan has been killed with an arrow through his heart and everyone seems overjoyed. King Edward I sends his clerk, Hugh Corbett, to investigate and to determine some means of breaking his alliance with France. Lord Henry is not the only victim of one or more mysterious archers. A woman's body was found in a shallow grave and more murders follow as Corbett investigates. Could the killer be Lord Henry's brother, the father of the woman Henry was chasing, or the mysterious forest outlaw known as the Owlman?

    Corbett's investigation must be going somewhere because the archer attacks even him, yet none among such an abundance of suspects seems completely guilty although all seem relieved that Lord Henry is dead. There appear to be darker forces at work, however, than merely the murder of a much loathed Lord. The sinister Amaury de Craon has his hands deep in the workings of a French spy ring that tears at England's secrets. He was with Henry when that Lord was killed. He would like nothing better than to add Corbett's death to his toll.

    P. C. Doherty (see all reviews of novels by this author) paints a convincing history of the powerful King Edward, his weak son, the long-lasting struggle between France and England (the marriage between Edward's son and a Princess of France was a major factor in the 100 years war between these countries). Although these high histories form the backdrop of this mystery, Doherty also describes the smaller faces of history--the prostitutes who serve their lords, the verderers and ostlers who serve their lords and whose survival is at the lord's pleasure, and the priests and nunneries that form the countervailing power to that of the King and lords.

    Doherty wisely added a touch of romance to this novel with Corbett's assistant, Ranulf, falling hard for the daughter of the chief suspect--a woman who becomes a suspect herself. Their new groom, with an uncanny ability to lose at dice and a singing voice that frightens even the horses adds a note of humor. Corbett himself, however, is not fully developed as a character. Perhaps Doherty has chosen to adopt the approach of the detective as emotionally distant. Despite this, THE DEMON ARCHER is an entertaining read.

    Three Stars

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