It's been a while since Sharan Newman's last Catherine Levendeur mystery, so I was thrilled to hear of this collection of short stories set in twelfth century Europe. This slim little volume begins with a special introduction in which Newman gives an overview of the series in its entirety. If I hadn't already read the books, this overview would have had me ordering them straight away.
Each of the seven stories focuses on an aspect of the family and of medieval France. The first, "The Beast Without," is based upon a story by the twelfth-century writer Marie de France. I felt as if I'd walked into a fairy tale, and as it so happens, "The Beast Without" is one of my favorites in this book.
"Conventual Spirit" takes place before the start of the mystery series and gives us a glimpse of Catherine in a convent in Brittany-- and why she didn't fit in with the nuns there. "Death Before Compline" is my other favorite in this selection and is the reason for the recipes that are included in the back of the book.
Each story begins a bit of background in which we learn that Newman wanted to explore a certain character's life, or that it was written with a certain theme in mind. I do enjoy this glimpses into the writing process, and each one adds to its short story.
Death Before Compline will appeal to all: those who are already fans of Catherine Levendeur, and those who have yet to read the books. In fact, these short stories are an excellent introduction to the series, so if you're an historical mystery lover who's thinking of trying Sharan Newman's books for the first time, this would be a good place to start.
Death Before Compline by Sharan Newman
Bagwyn Books © 2012
Paperback, 126 pages
Short Stories, Historical Mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen