Cover image for Falconer and the great beast
Falconer and the great beast
Morson, Ian.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
220 pages : map ; 22 cm
Format :


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"Eastern horsemen rampage across the European mainland trampling underfoot the emergent kingdoms, unwieldy empires, and fledgling principalities that comprise medieval France and Germany. These are the Tartars, and in 1268 they reach the end of a long ride. Now, having driven their pillage to the very ends of the earth, they cross the English Channel under a banner of peace. They claim to seek audience with the king - but can they be trusted?" "The people of Oxford, unwilling hosts to the Tartar delegation, greet their arriving guests with cold silence. As the visitors stage an enormous banquet outside the city walls, that silence gives ways a sense of murky foreboding. Within hours, the Tartar ambassador is dead. It appears someone murdered him, but how? Magic?" "Master William Falconer doesn't think so. On the case once again, this committed scientist knows a rational explanation lay behind the emissary's death...or he thinks he knows. But the numbers just don't add up, and before the mystery is solved, Master William may come to doubt his own methods. Even if he figures out the murder, the great Falconer must still trick the murderer into revealing himself."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

William Falconer, Regent Master of the University of Oxford, must solve a murder to help the king avoid a perilous international incident. Suspicions and political passions are aroused when a contingent of Tartars travel to Oxford to secure an audience with King Henry III. Fearing that their mission may not be a peaceful one, many stalwart British citizens become alarmed at the thought of a marauding band of infidels roaming the countryside. When the Tartar ambassador is fatally attacked shortly after his arrival at the university, Falconer undertakes an investigation with the able assistance of Friar Roger Bacon. Using both science and chicanery, they set an ingenious trap to unmask a cunning killer. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

The fifth installment in Morson's medieval mystery series featuring William Falconer, Regent Master at Oxford (A Psalm for Falconer, etc.), finds the university town intrigued and repelled by two foreign visitors. The first is King Henry III's elephant. The second is an encampment of Tartars, an Eastern tribe that has vanquished parts of Europe and now seeks an audience with the English king. Hostilities between town and university, as well as within the Tartar tribe come to the fore when the Tartar leader, Chimbai, is brutally murdered. Falconer investigates the death with the help of Peter Bullock, the city's constable. Suspects abound, including Chimbai's smug successor, Guchuluk, and a disgruntled English knight. The clue may lie in the hands of an old Jew, Bellasez, whose own murder prolongs the investigation. Set in 1268, the novel is permeated with period details. Morson skillfully draws parallels between Oxford's suspicion of the Tartars and the townspeople's attitudes toward the elephant: both are alien to the insular English, who regard the interlopers with a mixture of fear and awe fed by wild imagination. And once again, Morson uses Falconer's only weakness, his secretive personality, to lure readers into an enjoyable addition to a well-written series. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Medieval scholar William Falconer's latest case involves the murder of the Tartar ambassador, supposedly sent to Oxford on a peace mission. A natural choice for historical aficionados. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-The people of Oxford don't know exactly what to do or how to act when a delegation of Tartars sets up tents outside the city walls in 1268. They await Sir Hugh Leyghton, the envoy of King Henry, in order to begin any diplomatic talks. Waiting proves to be fatal for the leader of the group, who is found dead in a secured tent, killed by an arrow that pierced his armor and his heart. William Falconer, regent master at Oxford University, aids the town constable, Peter Bullock, in the task of solving the murder only to find that a strange disappearance also needs to be explained. With the help of Falconer's old friend, Roger Bacon, both mysteries are solved. Capturing the sights, smells, and details of medieval life, Morson presents a realistic and lively backdrop against which to tell his story. The rustic elements of daily life are especially clearly drawn, from cooking and eating to the almost nonexistent methods of hygiene. Science, thought to be more the work of the devil than the result of thinking minds, appears as the struggling discipline of the times. The author includes lots of physical action and some surprises to keep the plot moving. This title adds another perspective to the period explored in Ellis Peters's stories involving Brother Cadfael or P. C. Doherty's medieval mysteries that feature Hugh Corbett.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.