The ninth title in Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series features not Catherine but her Jewish trader cousin, Solomon.

This fascinating, carefully illuminated protagonist is an outsider in his medieval French village. Born a Jew, intrigued by Christians, Solomon believes that both religions have their failings.

For various reasons, Solomon has agreed to travel to Spain with a party of Christian monks. Before the journey begins, a monk who was to have been one of the party is murdered. Further complicating matters, Brother James, who leads the expedition, is Solomon's father, although he has long since renounced his Jewish heritage and his son. When another man is killed during the journey, it becomes clear to everyone that a murderer is in their midst.

With scrupulous clarity, Newman gets the historical details precisely right. She has the rare ability to keep the story true to its time yet timelessly entertaining. (Dec. '03, 432 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Cindy Harrison