Thursday, 26 April 2001

Paul Doherty: The Treason of the Ghosts (2000)

Edition: Headline, 2000
Review number: 806

The medieval town of Melford is a dangerous place for young women. A serial killer is stalking the lanes around the town, which has grown quickly from a village after local farming has changed to the profitable business of sheep rearing. When local magnate Sir Robert Champelys is hanged, found guilty of the killings, they stop. However, questions are raised after his conviction - the jury included several men he had cuckolded, and there seemed to be irregularities in some of the evidence. Sir Robert's son petitioned the king for an investigation and maybe a pardon, and when the killings start up again the king's clerk Sir Hugh Corbett is sent to Melford to find out the truth.

In many ways The Treason of the Ghosts is not quite typical of the series of novels in which Corbett is the detective. It is as meticulously researched as ever, but the fact that there is more plot than usual (with a large number of murders requiring simultaneous investigation) leaves less room for the evocation of background which is one of the principal merits of the series. Like many of Doherty's novels, particularly those written as Paul Harding, this one contains a locked room mystery, but it is only perfunctory and easily solved in a few pages. It is in fact quite easy to work out who the murderer is, with Corbett ignoring some very obvious leads. The poorer plot and lack of background make The Treason of the Ghosts one of the least successful novels in the series.

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