In 1539 King Henry VII is completing his ruthless destruction of England’s monasteries and the ripples of this seismic change are felt even in the small northern port of Liverpool. A pregnant novice nun, Agnes Moore, ejected from her convent and staying with resentful relatives, claims to have been attacked in the ancient chapel of St Mary del Quay on Liverpool’s waterfront by Satan himself. Her former abbess, Lady Katheryn Bulkeley, comes to her aid but Agnes refuses to identify her lover.
When a young priest is found dead in the River Mersey, his right hand hacked off, Katheryn realises that Liverpool harbours some disturbing secrets. Then Agnes is brutally murdered after which corpses are subsequently found mutilated in the churchyard. What is the link with Agnes’ death?
Katheryn slowly uncovers the secrets of Liverpool’s dark side as she seeks Agnes’ killer amongst the town’s highest and lowest citizens. As she draws closer to the truth, she faces the most urgent question of all, Why has such evil come to Liverpool and who is The Devil’s Priest?
It was difficult to calculate his age, but it must have taken many years to cultivate the characteristic stoutness of an ardent ale drinker.
This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Ellis and I enjoyed it. I liked the author’s style of writing and I am looking forward to reading some of her other books.
The Devil’s Priest is an interesting tale, full of interesting characters and with plenty of twists and turns. Lady Katheryn Bulkeley was a real former abbess living at the time the story was set. Her backstory combined with this fictional mystery makes for entertaining reading and a gripping yarn. The supporting cast of characters were also good: Valentine, the apothecary; Bartholomew, the ferryman; and Jane, Katheryn’s young maid who enjoys a good gossip.
The Liverpool in the book is pretty unrecognisable compared to the great port city of today, so it was interesting to learn about how it would have looked nearly five hundred years ago. Before reading this, I didn’t know that the famous “ferry across the Mersey” was run by the monks of Birkenhead Priory up until the dissolution of the monasteries.
I sincerely wish that this hadn’t been a standalone book – it would have made the perfect historical mystery series. So, I am going to deduct half a star from my rating because of my disappointment. Only joking – that would be mean and this book fully deserves it four stars.