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The Harper's Quine (2004)

The Harper's Quine (2004)

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3.81 of 5 Votes: 2
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0786713496 (ISBN13: 9780786713493)
carroll & graf

About book The Harper's Quine (2004)

I think that anyone who pays some attention to my reviews here would easily be able to guess that I love mysteries and I love historical fiction. So when I came across Harper’s Quine as a book that offers both, I had to buy it. But, as is so often the case, it sat on my shelf next to a whole lot of other unread books as I tried mightily to catch my reading rate up to my shopping rate.Finally, finally, it was time to give Harper’s Quine a turn, and I immediately regretted that I had waited so long!Gil Cunningham is expected to enter the priesthood. But when he becomes mixed in with a murder investigation, he is led to meet the lovely Alys, his future becomes rather less than certain.I really enjoyed this books for quite a few reasons. The biggest is that the mystery is solvable by the reader – pay attention while Gil gathers clues, and it’s possible to figure out the murder rather early on. It’s a little frustrating to see Gil continue to stumble about in ignorance, but it’s immensely satisfying to be proven correct at the end. These are my favourite sort of mysteries!Another aspect I really enjoyed was the relationship with Alys. Alys is an active participant in the mystery solving. She’s smart, capable, and contributes a lot to the detective work. But at the same time, this doesn’t feel anachronistic. Unlike Rowland’s Uechi Reiko, Alys is not a modern feminist trapped in the past. She’s a strong woman, but she’s still plausible. And, as a woman, she has many responsibilities. While her father and lover are out having great adventures, she must remain mindful of her household and its need to be continuously managed.And she can’t just “do it all” – there are times when she can’t get to a particular task that’s relevant to the mystery because she is occupied with being the lady of the house.If I had to look for a flaw, it would be with the fate of the baddie. I’ve complained about this before, I know, but I find it rather distasteful when the baddie(s) meets with a gruesome end. I understand that it’s supposed to be cathartic, or some such nonsense, but it just strikes me as barbaric. A simple hanging, while only slightly less brutal, would at least have the benefit of being that age’s expression of justice.But leaving that aside, this was a truly remarkable book, a rare gem. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who is a fan of mysteries and/or historical fiction!

Murder in the cathedral in medieval GlasgowAt the May Day dancing at Glasgow Cross, Gilbert Cunningham, notary-in-training, see not only the woman who is going to be murdered, but her murderer as well.Gil is a recently qualified lawyer who family still expect him to enter the priesthood. When he finds the body of a young woman in the new building at Glasgow Cathedral he is asked to investigate -- she turns out to have been the May Day harper's mistress and runaway wife of cruel nobleman John Sempill. Gil's inquiries lead him to seek a murderer in the heart of the city, but when the killer is finally exposed, justice strikes from an unexpected direction and Gil's own future is left hanging in the balance.~from the back coverGenerally I don't like medieval mysteries, but this one is set in Scotland and we all know I'm a fool for anything Scottish. Besides, my grandchildren are McIntoshes on their mother's side.It's well written, with an interesting plot, typically medieval protagonists, and a conflicted hero. All the ingredients for a good mystery. I liked it better than I expected to, and will read the rest of the series (St. Mungo's Robin, The Nicholas Feast, The Rough Collier, The Merchant's Mark, A Pig of Cold Poison and The Stolen Voice.)

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A very enjoyable look at life in Scotland in 1490+, I was fascinated by the roles of Catholic Church, University trained lawyers, the Stewart royal line and ho the law applied to various levels of society.Since finishing this book, I've gone on to read the next three and find n let up on the quality of the writing, the development of characters or the attractiveness of the stories.The most startling discovery is the sophistication of the investigative approach. Other authors (Margaret Frazer, Peter Tremayne and Melvin Starr for example) have added references to support their representation of the historical backgrounds for their novels, I'd love to know if the picture Ms McIntosh draws is truly representational or is tainted by knowledge of current trends of thought
—Sandy Shin

Gil Cunningham is a medieval Scottish man tasked with investigating the death of a harper's woman. Learned in law and intended for the church, he is reasonable and does not jump to conclusions. With help from a mason (who has a lively, lovely, single daughter), Gil solves the crime - and finds himself a bride.This is the first in a series, the rest of which I have not yet read. I was interested to see if I could find something kind of similar to the Cadfael series, but I am not a fan of medieval mystery author Michael Jecks, whose writing style I just can't get into. Pat McIntosh's writing style is not precisely like Ellis Peters, who wrote the Cadfael series and has what I consider a more "dense" style (it takes a while to get into the flow of the prose, and I can't really call it light reading), but it was even and detailed enough for my tastes. Not as light of reading as Agatha Christie, but a nice medium between Peters and Christie. I would recommend it to anyone who likes medieval settings and mysteries but doesn't want to get bogged down in detail and historical accuracy (though I did learn that they used to pack sore teeth with pigeon dung - ugh!).

This was quite a surprise and a much tougher read than I was in the mood for at the time. BUT, I persisted and was mightily rewarded. The history packed into this is amazing and the use of Scottish dialect and old middle English adds to the realistic local feel of this story. Gil Cunningham is studying law in 1400s Scotland, headed for the priesthood because his family backed the wrong royal, and reliant upon the generosity of his uncle. When a woman is found dead within the church grounds, Gil is asked to assist in finding out why she was killed. I must say that I was pretty confident in my own sleuthing skills and my suspicions were confirmed at the end. Figuring out "who dunnit" early on is sometimes an annoyance to me. However, in this particular case there were many Agatha Christie-like twists and turns that kept me guessing and turning the pages way into the wee hours of the morning.If you're of a curious nature it might be a good idea to keep a dictionary on hand. The general context of most of the Scots words is enough to get the gist but those with a love of language may want to know more.The most annoying thing about this series is that this one and the 5th one are the only ones available on Kindle. I'm not sure why publishers are doing this but I'm hoping that they'll soon get with the program and offer readers the option of paper or digital so I can add this series to my list of must reads!

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