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Medieval Murder Mysteries

Murder mysteries set in the historical past are very popular today. Here are short book summaries and reviews of some of the best of the medieval murder mysteries set in the British Isles or featuring British characters from that historical time period.

Whether you enjoy easy reading who-done-its, thoughtful literary mysteries, or an emphasis on accurate historical detail, there are sure to be murder mysteries here to please.

Buy Medieval Murder Mysteries
The Lepers Bell
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The Leper's Bell
by Peter Tremayne

This is the 15th novel and latest in the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne (aka Peter Berresford Ellis, noted Celtic and Irish historian), set in 7th century Ireland.

Sister Fidelma deals with guilt and maternal fear when her baby's nurse is found dead and the infant is apparently kidnapped. She and her husband, Brother Eadulf, investigate the circumstances of the murder and search for the little boy.

The first in the series is Absolution by Murder: A Sister Fidelma Mystery.
The Cross-Legged Knight
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The Cross-Legged Knight: An Owen Archer Novel
by Candace Robb

Set in 14th century England, this is the eighth book in the Owen Archer series. Owen Archer has little taste for feuds between powerful men now that his wife, Lucie, has lost the child she carried and seems to lose her will to live as well. Yet Owen cannot ignore the recent arrival of William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester. For one thing, the bishop believes someone is trying to kill him, and Owen is given the job of keeping him safe. Wykeham has good reason to worry. The family of a local knight blames him for the nobleman's death in a French dungeon despite their offers of ransom.

The first book in the Owen Archer series is The Apothecary Rose in which Archer's character and that of his wife are introduced to us and to each other.
A Trust Betrayed
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A Trust Betrayed
by Candace Robb

The first in a new series by Candace Robb, the sleuth is Dame Margaret Kerr, who travels to Edinburgh to investigate the murder of cousin Jack and the whereabouts of her missing husband, Roger. Set in 1297 Scotland, Edinburgh is occupied by the English and the Wars of Independence rage. Detailed and historically meticulous look at "middle class" life in medieval Scottish towns. The book is a cliff-hanger, and you will have to wait for the next installment for resolution.
Dragon's Lair : A Medieval Mystery
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Dragon's Lair : A Medieval Mystery
by Sharon Kay Penman

July 1193: Richard Lionheart, eldest and most favored son of Dowager Queen Eleanor of Aquitane, languishes in an Austrian dungeon, held for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor. Lusting after the crown in England, his brother John plots with his country's bitterest foe, King Philippe of France, to see to it Richard never leaves Austria alive. But the Queen has already begun to meet the ransom demands, and it is only a matter of time before the Austrians turn over their royal prisoner. And then one of the ransom payments vanishes in the fastnesses of Wales, itself wracked by rebellion and intrigue. Into this maelstrom, Eleanor sends her trusted man, Justin de Quincy-and murder soon follows.

First introduced in The Queen's Man: A Medieval Mystery, an Edgar nominee for best first mystery, Justin de Quincy returns in what may well be Penman's strongest mystery to date. The second book in the series is Cruel as the Grave.
The Owls of Gloucester
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The Owls of Gloucester (Domesday Books, Vol. 10)
by Edward Marston

A delightful series set in 11th century England, the investigative partners are Gervase Bret (a Saxon) and Ralph Delchard (a Norman), king's commissioners touring England to record and survey the holdings for tax purposes (the Domesday Book). In this tenth in the series, Edward Marston's sleuthing duo are drawn into the murder of a monk at Gloucester Abbey.

The first in Marston's series is The Wolves of Savernake.
Bone of Contention
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Bone of Contention : A Magdalene la Batarde Mystery
by Roberta Gellis

Third mystery in the series: Magdalene knew there was trouble brewing in Oxford, with King Stephen bringing together his great council, and her patron, William of Ypres, unexpectedly summoning her. But she never expected to find a murder. Ordinarily nobody would believe that Niall Arvagh of Murcot, one of William's men, would stab a man in the back, even a man as gross as Aimery St. Cyr. But this was a special case. Had Niall killed St. Cyr for claiming to be betrothed to the pretty heiress, Loveday of Otmoor, whom Niall wanted for himself? Or had Niall killed on orders of his master, William of Ypres, for political reasons?

The first is A Mortal Bane, followed by A Personal Devil.
The Name of the Rose
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The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

Eco's literary mystery explores the nature of truth in 14th century Italy as Brother William of Baskerville investigates murder and mentors the young monk, Adso. Medieval rationalism reaches its epitome with the "Holmes and Watson" of St. Benedict reasoning out the methods and motives that will lead them to the killer. A classic.
Morality Play
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Morality Play
by Barry Unsworth

Set in a deep winter of 14th century England, a roving troupe of players, augmented by a priest fleeing his past, recreate and perform a recent local murder, in hopes of replenishing their coffers, and thereby expose the murderer. Literary, thoughtful, exquisitely written.
A Friars Bloodfeud by Michael Jecks
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A Friar's Bloodfeud (Medieval West Country Mystery #19)
by Michael Jecks

Ex-Knight Templar Sir Baldwin Furnshill and sidekick Bailiff Simon Puttock are featured in this lengthy series set in the 14th century.

Here, Simon's servant, Hugh, has been granted leave to look after his wife, Constance, and to help raise their child; but soon after, she is attacked in their home, raped by a gang of men. Then she watches as her son is murdered and Hugh is struck down, before she too is killed and the house set afire. When Simon and Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, arrive at the grisly scene, the cottage is burned to the ground, the body of the child lying outside. Inside is a woman’s torso, badly charred. There are no remains of Hugh, but the fire raged so fiercely that all believe he has perished. But nothing is so simple.

The first book in this series is The Last Templar.
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
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A Morbid Taste for Bones: The First Chronicle of Brother Cadfael
by Ellis Peters

The series that began the trend, Peters' books feature Brother Cadfael, an incredibly talented sleuthing monk, herbalist and former Crusader. Set in 12th century England, Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries continue to draw an avid audience, even though the author died in 1995. There are 20 novels, a book of short stories, and Robin Whiteman has written two companion books - one a compendium and one a medieval herbal.