Monday, November 26, 2018

Review & Giveaway: The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

The Monastery Murders (Stanton & Barling, Book #2)
by E.M. Powell
Release Date: September 27th 2018
2018 Thomas & Mercer
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503903241
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from HF Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

My Thoughts
The Monastery Murders is the second book in the Stanton & Barling medieval murder mystery series and I liked it just as much as the first book, but for very different reasons.  What I really liked in this novel were the characters and the rich historical depictions of life in a monastery during 12th century England.  The way the author describes events during this time period makes you understand the characters a bit better, but also serves to remind you of the century in which the story takes place, something a reader needs to keep firmly in their head as justice and the law are so, so, so different from today.

Fairmore Abbey is a monastery of the Cistercian Order and is where most of the action takes place. As most of the monasteries during this time place tend to be somewhat isolated, the author blends the history of several real monasteries together to create this fictional one in order to give the reader an idea of what a real monastery was like during this time period.  Personally, I have always been fascinated by life in one and the discipline it requires to actually be a monk, and this monastery is no exception.  Aelred Barling, and his assistant Hugo Stanton, head to the monastery to help the Abbot deal with a horrific murder, but they encounter much more than that.

I really liked Stanton's feelings with regards to life in the monastery simply because it seemed to mirror my own.  While I understand the reasons for wanting that kind of life, I did tend to wonder about those men who didn't have a choice about being there, and this eventually became one of the themes of this novel.  What I really enjoyed however, was the defining relationship between Stanton and Barling as they grew to respect each other, not just as co-workers, but as men as well, learning more about each other is such a confined space.  Their characters are so different from each other, but they also tend to compliment each other, with their strengths and weaknesses balancing each other out.  I also enjoyed the slight thawing in behaviour of Barling towards Stanton, with him even giving the younger man some praise now and again.  While I am glad to see them getting along much better, their somewhat prickly relationship and their bantering does make them more fun to read so I hope it doesn't change too much.  

The monastery is set in quite a harsh and unforgiving land and the author wrote about it in such a way that I felt like I was right there, could feel the cold drafts and the welcoming heat from the fires. The murders were somewhat grizzly but I really liked the premise of them, although I did feel at times I was reading a horror book and not a historical mystery novel.  I did figure out who it was quite early on simply because it made the most sense, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.  I often got caught up in the daily lives of these men, their reluctance to get up in the freezing cold to perform their duties, the lack of sleep, the days fill with labour and prayer.  So well researched.  

The Monastery Murders is a fascinating medieval murder mystery set in quite a bleak land, one that made me reach for my blanket and snuggle deep as I was reading, grateful for my warmth.  I thought the author did a fantastic job describing the medieval nature of the abbey, the men's lives, and what it would have possibly been like to live during that time.  And while I enjoyed the mystery, I did feel like the murders were too much at one point, taking away from the lovely mystery the author had set up making me feel like I was in a horror novel instead.  I thoroughly enjoyed the developing relationship between Stanton and Barling and look forward to more adventures featuring these two men.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves medieval history with a twist.  


The Monastery Murders


  1. It sounds like an intriguing read. Excellent review!

  2. Great review. Love that cover. Sounds like a good one.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  3. What a great review, thank you so much for hosting EM Powell's blog tour! We appreciate your support!

    HF Virtual Book Tours