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By Singing Light

Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.

Currently reading

The Lost Tools of Learning and the Mind of the Maker
Dorothy L. Sayers
The Seventh Bride
T. Kingfisher
Hope in the Dark
Rebecca Solnit
Outrun the Moon
Stacey Lee
Midnight Thief
Livia Blackburne
The White Hart
Nancy Springer
The Great Wall Of Lucy Wu
Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Jim C. Hines
Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
Sarah Gristwood
The Harper's Quine: A Medieval Murder Mystery - Pat McIntosh by Pat McIntosh

I picked this one up at a recent public library trip after a recommendation from Deb. I was hoping for a satisfying mystery with interesting characters and a clearly drawn setting. I definitely found all of that here.

Gil Cunningham, a young man struggling with his desire to do right by his family and his knowledge that he is not fitted for the priesthood, discovers a dead body. Because the body is on the grounds of Glasgow Cathedral, of which his uncle is a Canon, he is given the task of finding the dead woman's killer.

I'm sure that this book has been compared to Ellis Peter's Cadfael series. Oddly enough, I was more charmed by Gil's story than Cadfael's. I especially liked the sense that Gil's faith was very real to him--I felt that he took it seriously and that McIntosh took his taking it seriously, seriously. While I know the medieval church had its problems, there were some simple devout people. I very much enjoyed the fact that we were given a chance to see one of them.

I do have some lingering questions, mostly about the character of Alys. While I know from my classes that there were extremely intelligent and well educated women in the middle ages, such as Christine de Pizan, or even Heloise, I wasn't clear on how Alys had gained her knowledge. I believe that masons like her father were highly respected and wealthy men, but he didn't seem particularly educated (intelligent, yes, but that's not the same thing). Maybe McIntosh explains it a bit more in later books, but as it was I remained a bit puzzled.

I suppose I kept comparing this to Ellis Peters as I was reading, partly because of the medieval connection and partly because they're both mysteries and so on. While I thought McIntosh did a marvellous job of setting the scene--conveying a sense of the society and time period, I did miss the sense of place that is so intense in Peters.

Final verdict? I'll definitely be continuing with the series as I found this one both enjoyable and well-done.

Book source: public library


This series was definitely my favorite set of mysteries from 2010 (except for Dorothy Sayers, but it’s always except for Dorothy Sayers). Set in medieval Glasgow, they depict Scottish life lovingly and take religion seriously. The characters are both interesting and likable. What’s not to like? [2010 in books]