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Medieval Mysteries
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Sarah Weinman recently pointed out that Crime Spree magazine is offering a free preview of issue six at their website. One of the freebies you’ll see there is Ayo Onatade's survey of medieval mysteries.

The Middle Ages has always been a fascinating period to read about, what with knights, courtiers, jousting and innumerable acts of treachery taking place.

Along with other sub-genres of historical crime fiction, medieval crime fiction has seen its popularity grow. However, at one stage there appeared to be a dearth of books on the period. It has always been a matter of scholarly debate as to what period can be classed as the Middle Ages/Medieval period and the general rule is that the dates run from around 500 to 1500 AD. There is some overlap for example, the Japanese medieval period is said to cover 1160-1600. While that of Europe encompasses the 11 Century until the 14 Century. In India, the period was from the death of Harsha in 647 AD until the Mughal invasion in 1526. Furthermore, it was a period where the whole of Europe and not solely England transformed itself from the ancient to the modern. What cannot be disputed is the fact that the medieval era is excellent at providing authors with a wealth of material with which to construct their stories and an abundance of history for readers to delve into.

Ayo covers the whole history of modern medieval mysteries and not just the typical English settings either. Such diverse locales as Japan and, yes, even Byzantium, are given their due. If you're interested in what's been written about the era, and who has written it, and especially if you want to see if you've missed anything, this article is the place to look.

I was pleased that our Byzantine novels were included. When Mary and I started writing we wondered how the books would be classed. My own opinion has always been that the early Byzantine period represents an anachronistic intrusion by the remnants of classical Rome into the Middle Ages. A sort of parallel history. What if Rome had lasted beyond antiquity? Well, it would have turned into a Christian state, matching Europe, while in practically all other respects retaining Roman culture. How weird is that?

As it turned out, we seem to have been lumped in with Roman mysteries generally. Not surprising given that the society we depict was, indeed, still Roman. But that classification does obscure the fact that our books are different from other Roman mysteries by reason of the fact that Christianity, which in their eras was a renegade belief, has by the sixth century, become the state religion. The classical world has been turned on its head. Our detective John, as a pagan, is an outsider.

We don't dwell on religion, but it is nevertheless always, inevitably, present. Our characters are Romans but they breath the air of the Middle Ages.

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