Hands up anyone who doesnâ€™t know the story of Romeo and Juliet. No-one? Thought not. Chances are you cut your literary teeth on it, and it probably holds some special associations for you. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s such a good subject for a modern/historical parallel romance story with sinister overtones.
Reading A.W. Deannuntisâ€™ debut novel, MASTER SIGER’S DREAM, put me in mind of the John Kennedy Toole masterpiece A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. The epigraph for that book â€“ When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him â€“ could easily do service here. In the role of the genius is 13th century philosopher Siger of Brabant, with the dunces being played by the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, the Papal Legate, Simon De Brion, and various anonymous sadists of the Roman Catholic Inquisition.
Sugawara Akitada, an eleventh-century Japanese senior secretary in the Ministry of Justice, is determined to prove the innocence of two men: one, his current retainer who has been arrested for the murder of a blind woman, and two, a convict who died in exile. As he bails out Togo, his accused employee, and searches for deceased convict Haseo’s family, Akitada also contends with a contemptuous superior, Minister Sogo, and the persistent rumors of a small pox epidemic in the city.
Did Templar Knights come to America a hundred years before Columbus? Was their Scot leader, Prince Henry Sinclair, entrusted with a sacred treasure he determined to keep safe in the New World? Did his second-in-command, Sir James, die during their exploration of the territories now within the northwest corridor of the U.S. and lower Canada? Was that dead knight’s grave much more than merely a memorial to him? What happened to Prince Henry?