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Murder of the Mystras Nun Paperback – July 26, 2017
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In this book, Lita-Louise Chappell’s intrepid team Reynard: Lucien, Chante and Gervais, find themselves headed for the Greek island of Mystras. At the outset, Chante and Gervais have been given the mission to help identify a Byzantine princess whose body had just been discovered by archaeologists. Lucien, by profession a police investigator, is only along because he can’t bear to be parted from his newly married wife, Chante, so near the date of their anniversary. In a museum associated with the dig, Lucien discovers the diary of a Venetian policeman. He is consumed by the story in the diary – a tale of murder within an abbey, a murder with clear ties to the church. By the end of this riveting book, the reader comes to realize that the Byzantine princess and the murdered nun in diary, Agatha, have some important things in common – important to the history, and perhaps the continuity, of the Church itself.
It is a story within a story within a story. The most external layer is the search for the identity of the princess. Perhaps because it’s academic, it’s a little less compelling than the story told by Lucien of the murder of the nun, which drives the story and actually makes it a little difficult to put the book down at times. However, the diary and search for the princess’ identity lead irrevocably to a discovery about primary resources from around the time of Jesus’ birth that are at the same time shocking and intuitively obvious.
I am not really a fiction aficionado, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed the novelty of learning about the main characters through their responses to historical documents and religious artifacts. I felt a strong resonance with them because of the way they were so immersed and passionate about the history they were studying. They were, at every point in the book, creating bridges between the past and the present (and in one very wonderful and exceptional moment, the future). I would say that this aspect was my favorite thing about “Mystras.”
If you’re interested in potential alternative explanations for events described in the Bible, this is a great read. If you love reading about people who love and live history, this is a real page-turner.
I hear with great interest that Dr. Chappell has another Reynard adventure to be released in the near future. Trust me: it’s on my list.