The Lost Prophecies – The Medieval Murderers

A mysterious book of prophecies written by a 6th century Irish monk has puzzled scholars through the ages. Foretelling wars, plagues and rebellions, the Black Book of Bran is said to have predicted the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. But is it the result of divine inspiration or the ravings of a madman? A hidden hoard of Saxon gold. A poisoned priest. A monk skinned alive in Westminster Abbey. Only one thing is certain: whoever comes into possession of the cursed book meets a gruesome and untimely end.

About the Authors
Bernard Knight, a former Home Office pathologist, is the author of the acclaimed Crowner John series. Former police officer Susanna Gregory’s novels feature Matthew Bartholomew, a C14th Cambridge physician. Karen Maitland is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling C14th mysteries Company of Liars and The Owl Killers. Philip Gooden writes Shakespearean murder mysteries. Ian Morson is the author of the Oxford-based Falconer series.

  • Paperback : 432 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1847391214
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1847391216
  • Dimensions : 11.1 x 0.13 x 17.8 cm
  • Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK (1 Jun. 2009)

The Black Book of Bran reminded me of the prophecies of Nostradamus, foretelling disasters or murders.

Bernard Knight’s character, Sir John De Wolfe of Exeter in the 12th Century is out for walk with his dog when he surprises some burglars in a library building in an adjacent street. There was a lot of commotion and a servant was killed but underneath his body was The Black Book of Bran. Sir John as Coroner was the only law officer and investigated the murder which seemed to be tied up with a lot of local treasure hunts.

In the next Act, Nick Zuliani the merchant of Venice character of Ian Morson, in 1262, is caught in severe weather in the Russian Crimea. He is looking for business and he is obliged to take shelter from a snowstorm in a stove house which is filled with Tartars. Nick has the opportunity of cheating these people for any money they possess and he does so with relish until one is murdered and in the confusion he is charged with the murder.

In the following Act, Michael Jecks’ Keeper Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock are in London in the year 1323 and are staying at the Priory of Westminter Abbey when there is a ghastly murder: a murder of a monk in an incredibly cruel and savage manner. It occurs in the crypt and there is blood everywhere.

In the next Act, it is 1350 and in Cambridge where Susanna Gregory’s characters Brother Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael become embroiled in an effort to stop mayhem between two sister colleges over murders caused in part by The Black Book of Bran.

The penultimate Act describes how Philip Gooden’s Nick Revill, in August 1605, receives a mysterious letter from an unexpected relative. This I enjoyed reading more than the other parts and I thought it was well paced.

The final chapter written by C J Sansom shows how his character Shiva handles the events leading to the day of judgement. Again, this outshines all of the other stories when it comes to pacing, dialogue.  That may have been because the characters were created only for that story, so no back knowledge was required and it’s set in 2035.

In all of these short stories The Black Book of Bran features and as a linking device it is very successful. The downside – some of the stories were quite boring and I struggled to get through the book and I’m not sure if it’s due to the writing styles or down to how they coagulated together as a single unit.

2/5 – Charity Pile

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