A slightly different take on Dr. Bill Brockton, the forensic specialist from the Body Farm in Tennessee. The team making up Jefferson Bass has co-authored several stories featuring Dr. Brockton as he gets involved with dead bodies, skeletons, and with those who cause crimes as well as those attempting to solve them. Lucky for the readers Dr. Brockton usually is a big part of the solving!
However The Inquisitor’s Key is actually a two part story as it goes back and forth from modern day Avignon, France to the same area in the 1300’s.
Brockton was called to France by his protégé, Miranda Lovelace, who had gone there for the summer to assist an old friend of hers who was working on an excavation in an anteroom that is situated beneath the Palace of the Popes. Miranda felt that Brockton would not only be a big help but would also enjoy the work as it was to be forensic and historic. It seems there is a belief (among some folks) that in effect the figure that was captured on the Shroud of Turin could have in fact been Jesus.
Of course there are also doubters since the Shroud was from the 1300’s and Jesus had been dead and resurrected long before that. However it appears that Miranda’s friend not only believes the theory but he also supposedly has the bones of the person’s body that was used as the model for “portrait” on the Shroud. Now the friend, Miranda and Brockton need to determine exactly or as exactly as possible the age of the bones.
As this part of the story is being told, the preamble, if you will, is also being told from the perspective of Avignon in the 1300’s. In this part the reader gets a look at some aspects of religion during the period. A look at how the Catholic church not only was a big player but was having internal turmoil in some of their own rituals. Ascension to the Papacy was political but also somewhat tarnished by one particular strong cardinal who solved the problems for the Pope. It seems some of his solutions were basically strong arm methods which appears in one case to possibly have provided the body for the painting of the Shroud.
As the Brockton trio work to first find the bones (which are not yet physically located but sort of narrowed down to a spot or two), they begin running into problems. It appears that other interests are also looking for the bones and will use just about any method necessary to get to them first.
Quite an interesting story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader occupied. It actually takes quite a while for the meaning of the title (The Inquisitor’s Key) to become evident. The ending seems to be completely unexpected but then again isn’t that what a mystery is supposed to do?