By M Lynes
The mutilated body of a child is discovered behind a disused synagogue. The brutal Spanish Inquisition accuses the Jewish community of ritual child murder - the ‘blood libel’. The Inquisition will not rest until all heretics are punished.
Isaac Alvarez, a lawyer working for the royal estate, is a reluctant convert to Catholicism who continues to secretly practice Judaism. When his childhood friend is accused of the murder Isaac is torn between saving him and protecting his family. Isaac is convinced that solving the murder will disprove the blood libel, save his family, and protect his faith.
As the Inquisition closes in how far will Isaac go to protect both his family and his faith?
Publication Date: 31st January 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 260 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
In the late 15th century, in the city of Seville, Isaac Camarino Alvarez finds himself in a difficult situation. He was raised a Jew, but converted to Catholicism when he married. However, he cannot let those old traditions fade away, and neither can his wife, who converted alongside him. Issac, however, takes things to the next level and, even though the synagogues have long since closed, he meets with a group of people every week, a group of people who still practice the Jewish faith.
When a boy is found dead behind a synagogue, the Jews are blamed. Apparently they had murdered him so they could use his blood to make their bread, Isaac knows this is untrue. He knows that there is no part of the Jewish faith that involves such violence to make something as simple as bread. But he cannot prove this, for to prove he knows such things would be to announce himself as someone with knowledge about the Jewish faith and this would place himself under suspicion. And with the Grand Inquisitor of All Spain in the area, such a thing would not be wise.
This book was a wild ride from start to finish and I simply could not put it down! Told from two perspectives, the perspective of Isaac and from the testimony of Friar Alonso, the Grand Inquisitor’s assistant, we have a broad picture of what is happening on both sides of the board. From Isaac’s side, we see, live, the story of what it was like to be on the side of the accused, for the Grand Inquisitor knows that he is a converso, but Isaac is employed by King Ferdinand, so he cannot simply be arrested as the others can. Isaac’s story tells, not only how his own life is in danger, but also the lives of his wife and two children, and how he can do nothing but sit back and watch as his friends are tortured and executed, for if he is to speak up, it will only provide the Inquisitor with more proof. From Alonso’s side, we see the justification, if it can be called that, behind the motives and that not all the people working for the Inquisitor agree with his methods.
Reading about Isaac’s desperation to protect his family was heartbreaking, for there is no indication throughout the book as to whether they will survive the Inquisition or not. You cannot help but like Isaac, for he only tries to help where he can and to protect his family where he cannot. The fact that he has to sit back and watch as people he knows are arrested, are executed, most all of them innocent of any crime and some of them not even Jewish, is a truly terribly notion to comprehend. So many are killed, for the water torture seemed to take as many lives as the executions and with an Edict of Grace, it only takes a very short conversation to get ones neighbour arrested. If someone wrongs you, it is not difficult to tell a small lie and get them put under suspicion.
Alongside Isaac’s story is Friar Alonso’s, or rather his testimony of the events. Whereas Isaac is not privy to much of the information about the Inquisition, Alonso knows it all and from his point of view we learn all that Isaac cannot. We not only follow the story of the accused, but also that of the accusers, of those who would do anything to get rid of the Jews once and for all and of those who share the same views, but do not agree with the methods used. Alonso, while he does nothing to stop it, does not agree with the water torture, and almost gives off the feeling that he does not want to be involved with the Inquisition at all. This almost makes you feel sympathetic towards him, which proves how incredibly well this novel is written, to make you sympathize with a man involved in the killing of so many innocent people.
Being brutal in the telling is unavoidable when a story is based in such a brutal period of history, but this novel has been written in such a way that it is not too violent to read, and yet, nor does it brush over the horrors faced by the accused. I was fascinated from the first page to the final word and this is most certainly a book that I would have no qualms with reading over and over again.
Michael is an author of historical mysteries who writes under the pen name of M Lynes. He has a particular interest in early 16th century Andalucia. He is fascinated by the interplay between cultures, globalization and religious intolerance of that period in Spain’s history. The ‘Isaac Alvarez Mysteries’ are set against this rich background. He won a prize for his fiction at the 2020 Emirates Literature Festival and is an alumna of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.
His debut novel ‘Blood Libel’, the first full-length Isaac Alvarez Mystery, was published in January 2021. Isaac, a lawyer working for the royal estate, must solve a brutal child murder to protect his family and his faith from the Spanish Inquisition.
Michael is hard at work on the second novel in the series and planning the third. He is originally from London but currently lives in Dubai with his family.