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by Caroline Roe
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2003
320 pages
ISBN: 0425191923

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Autumn 1354. Isaac, the blind Jewish physician, is called to the bedside of the Bishop of Girona, who has fallen ill at his summer palace at Sant Feliu de Guixols. A man arrives at the Palace with an urgent message for the Bishop. However, he has been poisoned, and even though Isaac mixes an antidote to the mysterious traveler's prescription, it is too late. The man dies without passing on his message.

Isaac asks his daughter, Raquel, to postpone her marriage to Daniel yet again. He needs her help, at least through the term of her mother's pregnancy. She reluctantly agrees, and Ephraim the glove maker, Daniel's uncle and employer, sends Daniel to the port of Sant Feliu to purchase rare and exotic trimmings.

In Girona, a stranger sets himself up as an herbalist. When his patients start dying, Daniel goes to Mallorca to find more about this mysterious young man. Isaac sets up one of his patients to act as if he has lost faith in the physician and to call in the new healer. All potions are then sent to Isaac, who, by using smell and taste, teaches Raquel and his Muslim student, Yusuf, how to determine the contents.

As with the previous six books in the series, Roe shows life in the Call, the Jewish quarter of Girona, in pre-expulsion Spain. One can almost see the streets and the courtyards in which the residents spend much time during the hot weather. One can certainly taste the food. And marvel at the sophistication of medical practice during the mid 14th century.

Caroline Roe is Canadian author Medora Sale, who holds a PhD in Medieval Studies.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, January 2004

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