"Medieval Murders," by Michigan author Aaron Stander (Writers & Editors, $15.95), is the fifth book in his popular series starring Cedar County sheriff Ray Elkins.
This time out, Stander shows Elkins in a different light, exploring a puzzling case that occurred before the dedicated lawman took his job in Northern Michigan.
This prequel to the series begins with Elkins serving as acting director of university police at a major Michigan college.
He's got five days left on the job. He's looking forward to going back to teaching again and returning to his position as chair of the criminal justice department.
Instead, Elkins is called to a crime scene on campus, where the body of medieval studies specialist Sheila Bensen is discovered after falling from the top of the carillon tower.
As an ex-cop in Detroit, Elkins has experience at crime scenes; he decides to dig deeper into the suspicious death.
Elkins gets assistance from Charlene Pascoe, Head of Investigations, a talented former student who has been recruited back to the department.
Further complications arise when a second medievalist dies on campus. The action intensifies more towards the end of the book, when the body of a third department member is discovered.
This is a well-crafted, cerebral police procedural that should easily satisfy fans who've enjoyed reading about Elkins in other books.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels Michigan books regularly since 1987.
This review appeared in the Lansing State Journal on October, 9 2011.