Strong As Death

Strong As Death

(A Catherine Levendeur Mystery)

by Sharan NEWMAN

384 p.


This counts for

‘What’s in a Name’ Reading Challenge

– Evil Category –


As a former novitiate in the Order of the Paraclete, Catherine LeVendeur has had more than her share of adventures. In fact, intrigue—and murder—seem to dog her path. When Catherine chose love over churchly devotion by falling in love with her Saxon nobleman, Edgar, her family had the earnest hope that married life would settle this most headstrong and unusual woman. But fate has a way of playing with mortals, and after suffering several miscarriages and the birth of a stillborn child, Catherine is inspired by a prophetic dream. She and Edgar will embark on a pilgrimage to the fabled monastery of Compostela, to petition St. James for a child, to take the holy waters, and to pray. During their journey Catherine and Edgar encounter mad monks, some less-than-penitent crusaders, and a motley collection of pilgrims whose past deeds bind them all in a bizarre game of chance. When several pilgrims are gruesomely murdered, the trail of evidence points to an old sin left unshriven and a hidden villain whose quest for revenge may end in Catherine’s death. [product description]




Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master’s degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France. She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific. Newman has done research at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique France Meridionale et Espagne at the University of Toulouse and the Institute for Jewish History at the University of Trier, as well as many departmental archives. [Author’s website]



The Middle Ages is certainly my favorite period in history. And I enjoy very much historical fiction set in the Middle Ages. Disappointed when I reached the 2oth and last volume of The Brother Cadfael Chronicles , by Ellis Peters, I had to look for another good medieval mystery series. When I say good, I mean something enjoyable, well written, and definitely well researched, as for the background setting and events.

Sharan Newman’s series, Catherine LeVendeur Mysteries, totally fits this description. Plus, I had the bonus of meeting  Sharan herself, when I delivered a lecture at the International Medieval Congress on Medieval Studies,  at Kalamazoo, MI,  a few years ago. She’s  a very lively, fun, and has a large knowledge of the Middle Ages. I was present to amazing conversations she had then with Father Chrysogonus Waddell, of happy memory, a Trappist monk who was giving her lots of important background on medieval history for her mysteries. It was so much fun and so much learning at the same time.

And this is what I really like in her mysteries. She manages to write great suspense mysteries with very serious background, including theological debates of the time. Her tour de force is of course to have Catherine be a former nun of the Paraclete, where Heloise was abbess. So the Abelard-Heloise relationship and the Bernard of Clairvaux-Abelard conflict is always somewhere lurking.

I just regret I read this 4th volume before reading the 3rd of the series, not sure how I managed to do this, but it fit well for my Reading Challenges titles. This is a long book, but such a good page-turner that I devoured it in 2 settings – though I will refrain from telling you at what time I went to bed…






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