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The Medieval Murderers are a group of historical fiction writers who have collaborated on a series of books using their own famous characters and interlinking the stories throughout history. The writers are:
Bernard Knight, author of the Crowner John series set in Devon in the twelfth century;
Ian Morson, author of the thirteenth century books featuring Venetian Nick Zuliani;
Michael Jecks, author of the hugely popular Templar series set in fourteenth century Devon;
Susanna Gregory, author of a series of books set in Cambridge in the fourteenth century and featuring Matthew Bartholomew;
And Philip Gooden, author of the Nick Revil books set in seventeenth century London.
They have currently written six books, with plans for another one this year.
The Sword of Shame follows the journey of a sword throughout history from when it is first cast in the tenth or eleventh century before the Norman invasion right up to 2005.
The sword is made by Bran, a Saxon sword smith, who thinks it is his best piece of work ever. Somehow the sword ends up with a legend attached to it that all who own it are cursed and we follow the swords journey from owner to owner watching what befalls them, and wondering if it is really the sword that is cursed or just all the people that end up with it. Does it really deserve its name of the Sword of Shame? Even though most of the characters are aware of the swords shady past and the legend attached to it they still seem keen to own it until something happens to them.
The book is divided into Acts, so is a bit like a series of interlinked short stories. Michael Jecks starts off the prologue with the casting of the sword to the fall of two brothers on opposite sides of the Norman invasion.
The story is then taken up by Bernard Knight during which the sword is brought by Crowner John, the first Kings Coroner for Devon, for his companion Gwyn who then ends up being arrested for murder.
For Act Two, by Ian Morson, we are off to Venice, where Nick Zuliani is caught up in murder and takes a leading role in the election fraud of the new Doge.
In Act three it's back to Devon, where former Templar Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Baliff Simon Puttock are sent for to help solve a murder.
Act four is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Ickelton, where Matthew Bartholomew, physician and fellow of Michaelhouse Cambridge, and Brother Michael are sent to investigate what has happened to the rent due to their monastery by the manor house at Ickelton where yet again, the sword appears and there are murders to be solved.
Act five sees Nick Revill, Kings Player at the Globe Theatre and sometime companion of Shakespeare, also end up in the village of Ickelton, this time in 1604, where he finds himself accused of murder and has to fight to clear his name.
The story is brought up to the present day in the Epilogue by Ian Morson.
I was unsure how I would enjoy these books as I could not understand how so many writers could become involved in one project. I am a huge fan of both Bernard Knight and Michael Jecks, and having read the complete Crowner and Templar series I know and love these characters already. The other three authors I knew of but had not yet read any of their books. I wasn't sure how these characters would fit in to the book with the rest of the characters whom I knew nothing about.
I found the book incredibly well written and found that it flowed between the stories well. It is interesting following an object throughout history and seeing the legend following it and how the characters react to it. The concept of having different authors writing the same book works well and it keeps it interesting with a different style of writing telling part of the same story. Some of the stories are better than others, and I did enjoy Jecks and Knights sections more than the others as I knew the characters already and no introduction was needed.
It is a definite must for any historical fiction fans, especially those already familiar with the characters listed above. Four stars from me.