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The Deadliest Sin

BOOK: The Deadliest Sin
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Also by The Medieval Murderers

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First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2014
A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © The Medieval Murderers, 2014

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of The Medieval Murderers to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

www.simonandschuster.co.uk

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-47111-436-6
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-47111-437-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-47111-439-7

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Typeset by M Rules
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

The Medieval Murderers

A small group of historical mystery writers, all members of the Crime Writers’ Association, who promote their work by giving informal talks and discussions at libraries,
bookshops and literary festivals.

Bernard Knight
is a former Home Office pathologist and professor of forensic medicine who has been publishing novels, non-fiction, radio and television drama and
documentaries for more than forty years. He currently writes the highly regarded Crowner John series of historical mysteries, based on the first coroner for Devon in the twelfth century; the
fourteenth of which,
A Plague of Heretics
, has recently been published by Simon & Schuster.

Ian Morson
is the author of an acclaimed series of historical mysteries featuring the thirteenth-century Oxford-based detective, William Falconer, a series featuring
medieval Venetian crime solver, Nick Zuliani, and many short stories set in various historical periods.

Philip Gooden
is the author of the Nick Revill series, a sequence of historical mysteries set in London during the time of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. He also
writes nineteenth-century mysteries, as well as non-fiction books on language, most recently
Idiomantics
and
World at War
, a study of the the impact of World War Two on language.
Philip was chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2007–8.

Susanna Gregory
is the author of the Matthew Bartholomew series of mystery novels, set in fourteenth century Cambridge, the most recent of which are
Murder by the
Book
and
The Lost Abbot
. In addition, she writes a series set in Restoration London, featuring Thomas Chaloner; the most recent book is
Murder in St James’s Park
. She also
writes historical mysteries with her husband under the name of
Simon Beaufort
.

Karen Maitland
writes stand-alone, dark medieval thrillers. She is the author of
Company of Liars
and
The Owl Killers
. Her most recent medieval thrillers
are
The Gallows Curse
, a tale of treachery and sin under the brutal reign of English King John, and
Falcons of Fire and Ice
, set in Portugal and Iceland amid the twin terrors of the
Inquisition and Reformation.

Michael Jecks
gave up a career in the computer industry to concentrate on writing and the study of medieval history. A regular speaker at library and literary events, he
is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association. He lives with his wife, children and dogs in northern Dartmoor.

 

 

The Programme

The Prologue, in which the pilgrims arrive at the Angel Inn

The first sin:

 

Michael Jecks tells a tale of Lust

The second sin:

 

Ian Morson tells a tale of Greed

The third sin:

 

Ian Morson tells a tale of Gluttony

The fourth sin:

 

Susannah Gregory and Simon Beaufort tell a tale of Sloth

The fifth sin:

 

Philip Gooden tells a tale of Anger

The sixth sin:

 

Bernard Knight tells a tale of Envy

The seventh sin:

 

Karen Maitland tells a tale of Pride

The Epilogue, in which the pilgrims depart from the Angel Inn

In fond memory of Dot Lumley (1949–2013), general agent and first editor for all the
Medieval Murderer
books.
Thanks for keeping us all in line.

Contents

Prologue

The First Sin

The Second Sin

The Third Sin

The Fourth Sin

Interlude

The Fifth Sin

The Sixth Sin

The Seventh Sin

Epilogue

Prologue

The English say that April is the best month to make a pilgrimage. Once winter is over, the roads and tracks become passable again. The skies lift and the days draw out. People
begin to grow restless.

But this particular spring, in the year of Our Lord 1348, was different from other springs. True, the days were growing lighter and longer as they always do, yet the people of England were not
so much restless as terrified.

For a time at the end of the previous year it had been possible to ignore the rumours as mere invention, stories created to frighten children. Extraordinary tales were coming out of the east,
tales of poisonous clouds that overwhelmed whole cities and even countries, with scarcely a human being left alive to tell the horrors he had witnessed. But because there were often reports of
fantastical things out of the east it was not so hard to dismiss these new alarms.

Then the accounts of mass dying began to arrive from nearer at hand. The cloud of pestilence reached out of the Levant and crept round the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, from Greece to Sicily
to Genoa. According to some, it had already taken hold of the port of Marseilles and the city of Aix and even Avignon, the seat of the Pope. His Holiness commanded penitential processions and
prayers, to no avail. The citizens of that holy site fell as rapidly as the inhabitants of the most pagan places beyond Christendom.

The pestilence had not yet reached England and many comforted themselves with the notion that the sea would keep them safe. Or they believed that God would not permit them to be afflicted
precisely because they were English. (After all, hadn’t He provided them with a great victory over the French at the battle of Crécy less than two years before?) But the better
informed or the more hard-headed knew it was only a matter of time before the sickness reached their island shores. Indeed, as the spring of 1348 turned to summer there were rumours that the
infection had already taken hold at the ports in the far west of the country.

And when it did arrive at the place where you lived . . . what then?

Neither prayers nor practical measures had any effect. You might bar the gates of your town and turn visitors away, but the pestilence, in all its cunning, found ways to circumvent every
precaution. It was said that people could contract it merely from the glance of an infected victim. Some who had been nowhere near any sufferer fell sick nevertheless and died. And how they
died!

Death took two equally dreadful forms. In this it might be likened to a pitchfork, for though you might avoid being impaled on one of its prongs you would most surely find yourself squirming on
the other. Many vomited up copious quantities of blood from the lungs and died very soon afterwards. The rest endured fever and delirium before great swellings erupted in their necks or armpits or
groins; after several agonising days they too perished.

If death by pestilence was like being impaled on a pitchfork, the question was: who was wielding it? Everyone knew that this familiar implement was one of the tools of the demons in Hell. Now it
seemed as though the Devil himself were ranging across the earth, twitching his tail and flailing about with his pitchfork. More thoughtful, religious individuals were aware that such things
happened only with God’s permission. And since God was permitting His people to be punished with these terrible forms of death, then it could only be because they had committed terrible sins,
and then committed them again and again. Deep-dyed in wickedness. they rejected with laughter or contempt every opportunity for repentance provided by a generous, forgiving God.

If some individual had the temerity to ask whether all the citizens of Genoa or Aix or Avignon – down to the last man, woman and child – had committed sins deserving such terrible
punishment, the answer given by the thoughtful and religious was that God’s purposes were inscrutable.

The only recourse for those English waiting in fear for the pestilence was to pray more earnestly and live yet more devoutly. Of course, not everyone was pious. Some carried on as usual, either
because they were resigned to events or because they believed themselves to be God’s favourites and immune on that account. A surprisingly large number decided that, if the end was really
coming, they might as well enjoy themselves and blotted out their remaining days on earth by drinking and gambling and whoring.

And then there were those who hoped that God’s wrath might be averted by going on a pilgrimage. Even had they the leisure and means, there was no question of travelling overseas; for
example, to the holy cities of Jerusalem or Rome. So it was fortunate that there were shrines and sacred places closer to hand.

BOOK: The Deadliest Sin
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