The Franciscan by James Rollo

This action-filled story sails us from Rome to the Wild West of America during the period around the Civil War.  Father Moretti, a humble church scholar, has his devotion to God tested when he discovers a treasure map tucked away in a hidden recess among archives.  Almost too strange for coincidence, the very same day Moretti’s superior, who is unaware of his find, sends him on an overseas assignment to the missions of the Santa Cruz Valley in North America.  This is the very spot marked by an X on the treasure map.  And the scholar monk will not be travelling alone.

Unbeknown to Moretti, it was not only his eyes studying the map.  Through a peephole to Moretti’s chamber, a disgruntled church employee is able to make a rough copy of the map.  This copy is passed to a greedy professional who will stop at nothing to claim the riches for himself.

With such a beginning, how can this story avoid being full of adventure?   The main storyline is rich, but Rollo gives us spices to go with it.  With Union cavalry troops, Confederate cavalry, fierce bands of Apache Indians, pioneer settlers, and wagons full of gold as ingredients, James Rollo cooks up quite a tale!

Magna Bloody Carta

I’ve always had a fascination for medieval Europe, especially EnglandRichard the Lionhearted and his deviant little brother John are two figures that loom larger than life in the histories.  And by association, Robin Hood and the Magna Carta come in to play when I dream of this turbulent time.

Although I like to fancy that I am an amateur expert of ‘auld’ England, I have never read or examined the document (my mistake).  The Magna Carta gives us a much better picture of the time than any Hollywood depiction.  Phyllis Radford does an excellent job of guiding us through this immortal document that has had such an impact across the globe and throughout history.  It is obvious that she has done her homework, and that she is a fellow enthusiast of the days of barons, knights, damsels, and that elusive fellow Robin Hood.

The Last Sunset by Bob Atkinson

Wow!  Bob Atkinson not only writes a good action story, but he provokes a reader to ponder the possibility of different realities, or even alternate universes.  The Last Sunset is reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series, insomuch that time travel and the fateful battle at Culloden play a major role in the theme.  But that is as far as it goes.

In The Last Sunset , the heroine of the story, Shawnee, an American lass with Highlander roots, is much less concerned about the history changing results of time travel  (like little interferences changing major historical events); instead, she is more concerned that she and the others who have found themselves thrown into an earlier century will not be able to prevent that infamous massacre of her people back in the mid-1700’s.

I give this book a thumbs-up, and I hope that Mr. Atkinson gifts us with a sequel.

Brother Cadfael

Does anyone else see Brother Cadfael as being a smooth, layed-back guy? If you don’t know who Brother Cadfael is:  he is a monk and apothecary at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury England during the 12th Century. He is a fictional character created by Ellis Peters (a pseudonym of Edith Pargeter), and appears as the main character in a series of short mystery novels.

I accidentally got hooked on the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael by thumbing through one of the paperbacks because it had a cool looking cover.  In fact, all the Cadfael books have good medieval style artwork on the cover.  I am a history buff, and I knew the monasteries in that time period were sanctuaries from the harsh life outside, as well as cultural centers.  I like to learn how day-to-day life was at that remote time.  However, what got me hooked on the series was Pargeter’s magical ability to weave such an enchanting world and a such a charismatic monk.

Cadfael, with no official authority, is the primary detective and problem solver in the area of Shrewsbury.  Partly because of the civil war that was raging at the time, many of the pilgrims and travellers passing through the abbey have problems with the law, or even family, because loyalties are divided between the two factions.  And more often than not, a lovestruck young couple is being kept apart because of social differences, a tyrannical father or mother, or marraiges arranged for reasons other than love.  Cadfael uses his generosity, charisma, wit, wisdom, influence with the sheriff, and crafty detective work to make wrongs right and to bring young lovers together.  He does it not for personal gain, but because he is a man at peace with himself and God.  He does it because he has nobler motives and a true goodwill towards his fellow man.