The Waxman Murders Review
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Thanks to Jeri Westerson and her Crispin Guest novels, I’ve gotten hooked on medieval mysteries—so whenever I see something that might be similar, I just can’t resist picking it up. After reading P. C. Doherty’s The Waxman Murders, though, I’ve come to appreciate Crispin Guest all the more.

As Christmas of 1303 approaches, King Edward I sends his trusted clerk, Sir Hugh Corbett, to Canterbury to handle two separate matters. First, wealthy merchant Wilhelem von Paulents and his family are visiting Sir Walter Castledene, the mayor of Canterbury. With him, he’s bringing a legendary treasure map, known as the Cloister Map—and the king would like Sir Hugh to negotiate a profitable partnership. At the same time, the king’s ward, Lady Adelicia Decontet, has been accused of murdering her husband—and Sir Hugh is asked to investigate.

  
 
As Hugh and his men arrive in the city, however, they’re informed that Paulents and his family are dead. All four were found hanging in the manor house where they’d been heavily guarded, and their bodyguard is missing.

With the help of his loyal men—and a few secret associates—Sir Hugh hopes to solve two murder cases and still make it home to his family in time for Christmas.

The Waxman Murders is Doherty’s fifteenth Sir Hugh Corbett mystery—but while this medieval series has been around longer than Westerson’s Crispin Guest novels, its hero lacks Guest’s personality and individuality. Sir Hugh simply seems too perfect. He’s just a good, devout man who’s been trusted to do the king’s business. He has a loving family, and he lives well. He’s smart, he’s thoughtful, he’s happy, and he has a tendency to burst into song. He may be the perfect man to do the king’s bidding—but, without some any character flaws or burdens to bear, he makes a rather bland hero.

Similarly, the medieval setting is fascinating, but it isn’t developed particularly well. If you’ve been to Canterbury (as I have), you’ll be able to picture the surroundings. But, if not, it’ll often feel like the story could take place in any city, during any time period.

The mystery itself is mildly interesting—a pair of murders that seem tied to a dead pirate and his mysterious brother. But it isn’t especially difficult to solve—and, again, the development is lacking. For an easy-going cozy mystery, it’ll do—but, compared to the depth and personality of the Crispin Guest mysteries, if just feels a bit dry. So if you’re looking for a captivating medieval mystery, I recommend picking up Veil of Lies instead.

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