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The Hangman's Hymn: The Carpenter's Tale of Mystery and Murder as he goes on a Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury Hardcover – November 11, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific British author Doherty, whose historicals have ranged as far back in time as ancient Egypt and the age of Alexander the Great, offers an entertaining medieval mystery, the fifth in a series (An Ancient Evil, etc.) in which Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims, in the dark of night, trade ghost stories. Three hangings prompt the carpenter to tell a frightening tale of murder, corruption and witchcraft. The carpenter's woodworker hero, Simon Cotterill, who may or may not be "fictional," is forced to join a Gloucester guild of executioners to avoid destitution. The brutal routine of Cotterill's new career is interrupted when the mayor orders the hangmen, under orders of strict secrecy, to execute three witches accused of a string of murders. The hangings, far from ending the menace, result in even more death, and Cotterill is forced to track down the mysterious coven leader responsible. More successful as an occasionally creepy atmospheric thriller than as a whodunit, this entry again demonstrates Doherty's gift for evoking the past.
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From Booklist

Doherty continues his series starring the characters from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales telling the stories Chaucer didn't collect. This time, the carpenter entertains his fellow pilgrims with a frightening story of deception and intrigue involving corrupt hangmen and witches. It seems that not all of those hanged in Gloucester die. When a coven of witches living in the nearby woods goes on a murderous rampage, the judges sentence them to death, but they somehow survive and plot revenge. The carpenter, an apprentice hangman, must figure out what happened before he and everyone else involved in the trial are killed for retribution. As always, Doherty is a master at re-creating the historical period. He captures the eerie atmosphere of the woods, the fear of simple folk who truly believe in the power of evil forces, and the mix of fun and solemnity that sets the mood as the pilgrims travel. A sure thing for fans of medieval mysteries. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (December 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312300905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312300906
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,828,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on December 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Paul Doherty's Canterbury Tales of Mystery and Murder series is probably my favourite historical mystery series. I look forward to each and every installment and am usually very disappointed that, because he is a very prolific writer with so many different mystery series in the works, new installments in this particular series take a while to be published. For those readers who are not familiar with the series, I will attempt to paint in some background details about the series. The series is based on Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales;" the pilgrims are all bound for Canterbury and in order to make the journey more agreeable, everyone has agreed to take turns at telling two kinds of tales each day -- a merry tale or fable during the day, and an eerie tale of darkness at night. Doherty's series revolves around the mysterious tales of murder and evil that are told each night. Another gimmick involved that makes this series all the more interesting and intriguing is that the pilgrims are connected to each other in some way or the other. So far, there have been four books in the series. Each has been a truly absorbing and chilling read, and a real page turner. And "The Hangman's Hymn" (the fifth intallment) was no exception to this rule!

The pilgrims are now deep in the Kent country, when they stumble across the chief tipstaff to the lords of assize about to dispense justice by having a few felons hanged at the place of their crime. The law of the times demand that because the pilgrims have chanced across this, they stand witness to the deed. One of the pilgrims however, the cheerful dark haired carpenter is so affected by the sight, that he faints from the horror. That night, as the pilgrims take their rest at St.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Claudia McGill on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't usually like period mysteries, because they often seem to have a certain self-consciousness about them in how they work to include period details, speech patterns, etc. Plus, I always wonder if the manners and habits of thought of whatever the era is would have allowed the characters to act as they do - it seems that often these book feature characters with quite modern ways of thinking that can seem out of place. So I'm glad I overlooked my prejudice and read this book. I find that the time period adds color and meaning to the tale, but it's the human interest that seems timeless, and caught my interest. The author's knowledge of the period allows him to integrate the characters' different habits and customs into the story in a way that reveals medieval thinking and ideas while pointing out the fact that human nature doesn't change. The mystery itself is fascinating - I couldn't put the book down - and I learned quite a bit about the society of the time without even noticing it! Very enjoyable, and it prompted me to look for the earlier titles in the series, all which are well worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Doherty's Canterbury Tales series continues marching on to its path of medieval mystery success! In his latest episode, "The Hangman's Hymn," Doherty singles out the Carpenter to be the teller of these "tall tales"! In fact, so far in this series, this one, the fifth, seems to be the best written, although perhaps not the most suspenseful.

The merry group of pilgrims, numbering 29 in all if we recall our English lit days and according to Geoffrey Chaucer, are on their way to Canterbury to pay homage to their beloved Saint Thomas a Becket. These pilgrims have accepted the challenge by the host of the Tabard Inn, one Harry Bailey, to help pass the time by telling four stories each, two on the way and the others in return. All of this is to be narrated by Chaucer himself.

Doherty steps in to help "the father of English literature," some seven centuries later, by relating more of these tales and in so doing deserves much praise, not only for his abilities to capture the "spirit" of Chaucerian England but in presenting a modern version that easily holds the readers' attention.

The carpenter's tale is a tale of gruesome, frightening murders, of hangings, of poisons, of evil incarnate, of witchcraft, and even a little romance! On their way to Canterbury the group comes upon a legal hanging, which causes a quick reaction of Simon Cotterill, the carpenter.

As the pilgrims pause for the night, the carpenter begins to tell his story. This is no tale told by an idiot, but it is full of sound and fury, of deceit, of bravery-indeed, it's a story not easily put aside. In the story, three witches are hanged and, before their hanging, vow to extract vengeance on all who were involved in their execution. Murder and mayhem, as they say, follow.
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By J. Chippindale on November 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Paul Doherty was born in Middlesbrough and is the consummate professional when it comes to writing historical mystery novels. I for one do not know how he can be so prolific with his offering of books and yet make sure that each of them is well researched. Whether they be 13th, 14th, or fifteenth century they are always true to the period. He also writes about Ancient Egypt and Alexander the Great.

A group of pilgrims have joined together, both for company and also for protection, as the roads and forests are littered with thieves and rogues, only too willing to relieve a traveller of their purse and most probably their lives as well. What adds even more spice to the journey is that several of the pilgrims know their fellow travellers but are not letting the fact become public knowledge.

The pilgrims have agreed that at the end of each day's journey when they stop at an inn or other resting place one of them will entertain the others with a tale. Whether the story is true or not only the storyteller will know.

During their journey to Canterbury the Pilgrims stumble upon an execution. Hangings are a common occurrence in these times, but this one affects the carpenter very badly and leaves him in a dead faint.

That evening, he narrates the tale of a Gloucester hangman whose involvement in the secretive punishment of three witches unleashes a vicious spate of revenge killings. Is this just a tale drawn from the carpenter's fertile mind or is the tale true and he was in some way involved in the punishment of the so called witches?
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