This is the fifth in a series of historical detective novels, or in the author's words, "murder puzzles". The year is 1268, and William Falconer, devotee of Aristotelian logic, is a Regent Master at Oxford University. He is also an amateur sleuth.
A diplomatic mission of Tartars arrives to negotiate an alliance with King Henry's envoy, Sir Hugh Leyghton. With the Tartars comes Falconer's old friend, Roger Bacon, returning after 10 years' imprisonment in France. His behaviour immediately gives William cause for concern. Matters become much more serious when the Tartar ambassador is murdered in a heavily guarded tent in broad daylight. When the tent and body are burnt beyond recognition Falconer must recourse to Aristotelian logic to solve the seemingly impossible crime.
This is essentially a locked-room mystery and in the best sense an old-fashioned and thoroughly English detective novel. The pacing is deliberate, with all the evidence required to solve the puzzle carefully presented, the solution resulting in an exciting race against time. A complex, multi-character portrait of medieval Oxford is drawn concisely, with many unusual historical details such as the presence of an elephant, establishing the sense that this is a real, vibrant and living city.
Comparisons with Ellis Peters' Cadfael novels are inevitable, yet there is a place for both, Ian Morson's work having a particularly appealing sense that this story takes place in an overlooked corner of real history. -- Gary S. Dalkin [via]