The Midnight Man

The Fourteenth Century was one of the most disturbing eras in our history. It was a season of war, great pestilence and horrendous violence, so much so that the people thought that both heaven and earth were being shaken to their very foundations. The words of the “Dies Irae” were real.

“O Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning,
See fulfilled Heaven’s warning,
Heaven and Earth in ashes burning.”

If we turn in the corridor of history and peer back into that century of shadows we find men and women very similar to ourselves though with significant differences. For those who lived in the Fourteenth Century the line between the visible and invisible was very thin; sometimes this disappeared altogether. The Catholic Church truly believed it was locked in a spiritual battle with the Lords of the Air led by the Prince of Darkness and that Satan did directly intervene in human affairs. And if this wasn’t awe inspiring enough, the Church also warred against those who deliberately invoked the Powers of Hell. Time and again, the Church castigated those witches, wizards and warlocks who prowled cemeteries and haunted those derelict churches which once served communities now wiped out by the Black Death.

Of course at the same time human wickedness needed very little help! Robbery, murder and sexual misdemeanours were as rife then as they are now. London’s underworld was an extremely busy, thriving place peopled by conmen, counterfeiters, professional assassins, bogus priests and all sorts of varieties of ladies of the night. Now and again this villainy singled out some great venture or lucrative enterprise which drew in all the denizens of London’s underworld. No more was this more apparent than in 1303 when the gangs of London plotted, planned and perpetrated their greatest crime, the robbery of the Crown Jewels from the gloomy crypt beneath Westminster Abbey.

The ‘Midnight Man’ deals with all these themes, an exciting, vivid, fast-moving tale of dark designs in London around the Church of St Michael’s Candlewick many years after the “great plundering of Westminster.” Brother Anselm, a Carmelite friar, once a soldier but now his order’s most powerful exorcist, has been summoned to St Michael’s Candlewick to confront the hideous ghosts and apparitions who are plaguing that church. Anselm discovers that the reason for this demonic infestation is due to a macabre ceremony carried out by London’s most notorious warlock, the Midnight Man. Anselm, together with his novice young Stephen, enters the meadows of murder and mystery. He has to confront and unmask the ‘Midnight Man’ as well as discover the hideous crimes committed in and around St Michael’s, including the allegations about the disappearance of young women whose corpses have never been found. Anselm and Stephen begin their hunt which takes them to sinister cemeteries, haunted abbeys and churches. They travel the packed, colourful streets of Cheapside as well as the macabre, desolate wastelands of the city. The ‘Midnight Man’ proves to be a most cunning ruthless opponent who exploits a series of mysterious murders to protect both himself and his coven.

The ‘Midnight Man’ is the Physician’s tale as he travels with Chaucer’s pilgrims from the ‘Tabard’ in Southwark to pray before the blissful bones of Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. The Physician’s eerie tale is well known to some of the mysterious pilgrims who have a great deal to hide since that ‘great hurling’ time around St. Michael’s Candlewick. The ‘Midnight Man’ is a heart-chilling story of wolfish souls locked in tangled intrigue, played out against all the vivid colour and hectic bustle of medieval life, be it the opulent mansions of Cheapside, or the shadowfields, the gloomy, narrow lanes of the wolfsheads’ sanctuary in Whitefriars. I hope “The Midnight Man” will prove to be a very worthy addition to the Canterbury Tales series.