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Remedy for Treason    by Caroline Roe order for
Remedy for Treason
by Caroline Roe
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 1998

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Remedy for Treason is the first entry in a new mystery series by Canadian author Medora Sale writing under the pseudonym Caroline Roe. Roe has written an engaging set of main characters into an unusual setting - making this series unique among the many historical mysteries set in various periods in England, the US and France. The time is mid-1300's in Girona, Spain, and the hero / sleuth is blind Jewish physician Isaac. For those who enjoy getting a taste of a different period in history, this one has instant appeal. And since most historical mystery writers take their research seriously, the reader presumably gets a reasonably accurate look at how Jews were treated in 1300's Spain, where the Inquisition had already been underway for a century (although it had not yet reached its worst).

Isaac is a man of around forty. He lives in the Jewish quarter of Girona with his wife Judith, sixteen-year old daughter Raquel and younger twins. In a time of great ignorance and fear about disease, the skilled Isaac is greatly respected. He is called to heal people from all walks of life, including the nuns in the convent. Raquel acts as his eyes and accompanies him on all visits, reporting her observations to her father. Isaac is initially called to the convent to tend to the very ill teenage niece of the bishop - Isabel (who is also the daughter by a first marriage of King Pedro of Aragon) has been staying at the convent for her protection. Fourteenth century Spain was rampant with political rivalries among supporters of potential heirs to the throne; all willing to go to any lengths to eliminate competitors. King Pedro has married again after his first wife's death, and his new wife has borne him a son. If Isabel marries and has a son, he will be a rival for the throne.

Isaac is asked by the Bishop to investigate after a mysterious nun is murdered in the public baths. Isaac is well-placed for this task since he travels all over the city and can ask many seemingly innocent questions. Along the way he picks up a very engaging young Moorish boy of ten or eleven; Yusuf, a beggar with a past he is careful to hide. Yusuf makes an engaging sidekick and together, he and Isaac solve the mystery. Roe has created an appealing detective team in a great setting. However, the plot is rather convoluted. Though she includes both a map and a family tree for several of the characters, it is difficult to keep everyone straight and the mystery appears more complex than it needs to be. That said, I still look forward to future books and to the reappearance of Isacc and Yusuf.

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