I usually don't read books in a series out of order, but when I heard that the fourth book in Sharan Newman's mystery series set in 12th century France took place during a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, I knew I had to read it.
Newman did an excellent job in filling in the backstory of Catherine LeVendeur so that I was able to read Strong as Death as a standalone novel, and I hope to read more in the series as I liked the characters, the writing, and the overall setting. Sort of Brother Cadfael meets Outlander--there was a lot of medieval Christianity content and Catherine and her husband, Edgar, really reminded me very strongly of Claire and Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Both Catherine and Claire are feisty, capable, practical, compassionate, emotional women, and both Edgar and Jamie are loyal, strong, steadfast, and hopelessly in love with their respective wives.
Now on to why I read the book in the first place, the Camino. According to the afterword, the author walked the same path as her characters did, starting in Le Puy, France and it was great fun to Google the places where the pilgrims stopped along the way and gaze at the pictures of towns that really don't look like they've changed much during the past millennium. It seemed that all of the churches, shrines, and other landmarks mentioned in the book remain for today's pilgrims to enjoy.
The mystery itself was pretty good. I did guess at the murderer fairly early on, but I thought the story was sound and tight and not too fantastical and I loved reading about the customs, religious issues, and day-to-day living issues that constituted the world of the 12th century pilgrim.
This goes on my Camino bookshelf, and I imagine I will be rereading it before I begin my own pilgrimage two years from now.
|Conques, France - near the beginning of the journey to Compostela|