Poison For The Prince by Elizabeth Eyre

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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This here is one of the seemingly forgotten treasures of Historical Murder Mystery. The third in a series of six Whodunnits set in Renaissance Italy, it follows the adventures of Sigismund, a mysterious and calmly competent mercenary whose talents extend to solving crimes. He bore comparison to Cadfael and Falco back in the day but now there's not even a hundred Goodreads reviews of this book.

I hope this review might change that a tiny amount, although it seems unlikely when they're not even in print. That's a shame as this book really is quite good.

It takes a while to get into as the prose is somewhat dated now. Eyre (a combined pen name for Jill Staynes and Margaret Storey) uses a style that is mostly omniscient with odd forays into 3rd close. The nature of that omniscience is brought home by occasional musings by the narrator as to what the characters might be thinking. This, combined with a somewhat slow and meandering start, requires patience from most readers.

The patience is well rewarded though. Eyre writes with a lively, somewhat Pratchett-esque wit and insight into humanity. There's a particularly clever appreciation of what acts establish a character most quickly, which brings sparkling life to the cast of stereotypes. Poison For A Prince also comes off as properly researched and is overbrimming with small historical details. The murder plot is competently executed, although I must confess to not being as enamoured of the ending as I could be.

It's a small quibble. When I'm in the mood to read of ye murders of olde, I'll reach for Eyre as much as anyone else in the field. And so should everyone else.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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I've never heard of this or the author(s?), but it sounds really interesting.
I only knew of them because my parents had a copy. Then, when I wanted to start writing Fantasy whodunnits, I decided to go order the lot of them cheap second hand, as I figured this sort of thing would be the best model.
 

Toby Frost

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Interesting that you decided to read outside the genre (and probably a very good idea). When I decided to write a noir fantasy novel, I ended up reading Raymond Chandler and John le Carre books.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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Interesting that you decided to read outside the genre (and probably a very good idea). When I decided to write a noir fantasy novel, I ended up reading Raymond Chandler and John le Carre books.
Regardless of the sense of the idea, I think that the current field of non-urban crime and noir fantasy is so thin that there's simply no other way to do it.

Beyond that though, I completely agree with you that its a very good idea. There's simply better examples to copy of the things we want that aren't strictly fantasy.
 

Toby Frost

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The book I wrote was basically urban, but I felt that the non-fantasy crime writers were better at putting a story together and had a tone closer to the one I wanted: not heroic, but not the kind of OTT Tarantino-style that seems popular in grimdark. But the best examples of crime writing are unsurprisingly in the crime genre!
 
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