To Know Evil
Pemberley, Oct 1 2009, $17.95
In 999 AD at an isolated Benedictine monastery in northern Italy, Brother Ryan lies dead at the steps leading to a tower. Whereas renowned skeptic Brother Thomas of Worms believes Ryan is a murder victim as the Irish monk feared heights, the Abbot Brother Michael rules a tragic accident occurred. Because he broke a Rule by displaying personal ego and no humility, Michael assigns Thomas to do penitence by copying a passage of the New Testament in the scriptorium.
Brother Nicholas tells Thomas he found an arcane psalm book with palimpsest writings. They begin following clues left by the previous residents the Gnostic who imply they hid a Gospel. Soon other Brothers die in mysterious ways, but Michael insists Gedeon and Bartholomew from accidents while Thomas believes one of them is the killer. As he abetted by Nicholas searches for the lost Gospel and a serial killer, the Abbot warns Thomas to cease all intellectual pursuit or face exile and perhaps worse.
Mindful of Peter Tremayne’s Fidelma of Cashel and Brother Eadulf, this is an intriguing look at life in a cloistered monastery at the turn of the millennium. The story line is fast-paced and filled with twists to disguise the brilliant villain from the prideful hero whose ego enables the killer to play him like a child playing the notation by the monk Guido d’Arezzo (circa 1000). Although the motive is weakened because of a seemingly time gap between arrivals and homicides and an unnecessary red herring, fans will enjoy Stephen Gaspar’s fine medieval whodunit that brings to life 999 AD Christianity.