A group of six historical mystery writers, calling themselves The Medieval Murderers, collaborated on THE SACRED STONE. In this novel, the prevalent character is not a person but an inanimate object. The sacred stone, which seems to have healing powers, is a piece of meteorite found by hunters in Greenland in 1067. It also appears to bear some ancient markings or symbols that may or may not lead back to the Holy Land. The Medieval Murderers take readers through the centuries (1101, 1103, 1236, 1241, 1272, 1606), during historic times of powerful clerics and kings, to an ending in 2010 London. Murder, mayhem, and mishap abounds as one after another person or group seeks to acquire the odd object for one reason or another, no matter the cost.
THE SACRED STONE is a cleverly woven tale of intrigue and superstition, as well, by six talented members of the Crime Writers’ Association. Like most English novels I have read, it is not fast-paced, but the accompanying historical notes lend authenticity to its likely scenarios. Susanna Gregory is one of the authors and I have read several of her mystery novels set in 14th century Cambridge, England. The other five – Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, Philip Gooden, Sims Beaufort, and Karen Maitland – I will be looking for at the library.
The Bay at Midnight is the first book I have read by Diane Chamberlain. It will not be the last. Deftly incorporating murder and secrets into two family dynamics, Chamberlain has written a well-crafted mystery. The story, taking place in the present, as well as forty-one years earlier, unfolds through first-person accounts of two sisters, Julie and Lucy Bauer, and their half-Italian mother, Maria, and revolves around the death of Isabel, an older sister/daughter who had been murdered in the summer of 1962.
Until that summer, the family cottage on the New Jersey Shore held only fond memories and excitement. After 17-year-old Isabel’s death, the cottage was sold and no one ever went back. Julie, who was an adventurous 12-year-old at the time, still carries around guilt for perhaps contributing to her beautiful sister’s death. Lucy, who was only eight that summer and full of paranoia and abject fear of just about everything, never married and remembers little about that summer except for losing her sister. Maria has refused to ever talk about that terrible time and retreats to her bedroom as soon as it is mentioned. Julie and Lucy have no idea that their mother has decades old secrets that will shock them deeply.
In the present, Julie, 53, divorced, and an established author, is having a hard time with her 17-year-old daughter, Shannon, who wants to spend the summer with her father before going to a prestigious college. Lucy, in whom Shannon has confided, takes her niece’s side. Maria, now a widow, works at McDonald’s, enjoyably, but the past is about to disturb her settled life.
The Chapman family – Ross, his wife, and sons, Ned and Ethan – has the cottage next door to the Bauers. Ross has a history with Maria; Ned has a history with Isabel; and Julie’s history with Ethan is about to be resurrected. The catalyst for stirring up the past and reuniting the families is a newly found note to the Point Pleasant Police Department:
To Whom It May Concern:
I have information about a murder that occurred in your jurisdiction in 1962. The wrong person paid for that crime. I’m terminally ill and want to set the record straight. I can be contacted at the above phone number.
Sincerely, Ned Chapman