Book review: To Wear the White Cloak by Sharan Newman

To Wear The White Cloak (Catherine LeVendeur, #7)To Wear The White Cloak by Sharan Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was reminded recently by a professor of medieval English literature that the author of this mystery series was “a real historian.” In fact, the professor hadn’t even realized that the author had written a historical mystery series, being only familiar with the author’s academic work.
This is one of my favorite mystery series, and one main reason is that the series highlights a little-covered aspect of medieval life, which is the treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages. The topic is handled well, without judgment and within the context of its time. Catherine LeVendeur, the main character, is delightfully out of the mainstream, raised in a convent run by Abbess Heloise (of Heloise & Abelard fame) and who has Jewish cousins. (You’ll have to read the series to discover how that happened.) She is unorthodox for her time in many ways, but the author does not make the mistake that many do, and Catherine’s lack of orthodoxy is limited to what would have been tolerated during the time period. She is constantly praying that her Jewish relatives come to the true faith so as to not condemn their souls to everlasting hell.
In this particular mystery, a dead man is found in the house of Catherine and Edgar (her husband), wearing a white cloak, similar to the Templars’ outfits. Was the dead man a Templar? If so, why don’t the Templars know who he is? At the same time, a threat from the past comes back and threatens Catherine with exposure about her Jewish relatives.
The mysteries are often secondary to the fascinating look at medieval life from the view of the merchants. The author interweaves historical details beautifully, and you never feel like you’re reading out of a history textbook. The characters are all well drawn with fully realized personalities.
If you like historical mystery series, I highly recommend this one. Even if the period isn’t necessarily compelling, the unusual angle this mystery series takes on medieval life is well worth the read.
The series is best read in order but is well worth your time!

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