Christians and Jews co-existing in Torquemada’s Spain: an intriguing new novel


Michael Lynes, Blood Libel: An Isaac Alvarez Mystery.

ISBN 978-9948258667

Kindle: $1.57, Paperback from $9.99.

Available as an e-book through the Public Library System

Reviewed by Ted Witham

I was intrigued by this novel set in Spain’s Seville at the time of the Holy Inquisition.  Isaac Alvarez is an official in the city. As a Jew who has converted to Catholicism but is still secretly attending Jewish prayers, he and his family are vulnerable to being denounced. 

A boy is murdered, and the story is circulated that he was killed so that his blood could be drunk in some secret Jewish ritual – the blood libel of the title.

The story is told through the written testimony of Friar Alonso, the assistant to Torquemada, alternating with a third person narrative from Isaac’s point of view. This method of telling the story works so that the motivations of both characters can be explored. 

Occasionally this was spoiled by an attempt to be cinematic, for example, concluding a chapter with one-line descriptions of everyone’s predicament. ‘Isabel is locked in her cell. Isaac is in the bar. Alonso is praying in his tiny cell, etc’. As a means of building tension, I found the device superfluous. 

Generally, the story is professionally presented and edited; a pleasure to read, and a delight to be so carefully taken into 15th Century Spain just at the moment when Inquisitors like Tomas Torquemada were breaking down the fragile peace between Spanish Catholics, Muslims and Jews.

I look forward to reading more of Señor Isaac Alvarez as his work takes him closer to King Ferdinand in the next in the series.

Author: Ted Witham

Husband and father, Grandfather.Franciscan, writer and Anglican priest.

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