The story begins in the year 1100. It is the time of the First Crusades and the Holy City of Jerusalem has just been recaptured by the Crusaders and their zest to avenge Christianity results in the slaughter of innocents within the city walls. One of these innocents is the man who had been entrusted with protecting a very special relic - a piece of the True Cross stained with the blood of Christ. As he dies, he curses the invaders and the relic that brought about his untimely death so that anyone who touches the relic will die a horrible death as soon as the relic leaves their possession.
Five different authors tell the story of the relic and its path of destruction through time from the walls of Jerusalem to Devon in the later 12th century, Oxford in the early 1300s then back to the Devonshire city of Exeter before heading to Cambridge in middle of the 14th century and then finally winding up in London at the time of Will Shakespeare. The prologue ties things in to modern times just before the millennium.
Although not the finest example of crime writing (what can I say, it takes a great deal to live up to Christie), I found the mix of history-mystery mix to be quite entertaining. Even better was that I had recently visited some of the places that were described in the stories and it was fun to go back to look at my photographs and imagine the buildings and streets and locations during medieval times.
Its not a keeper book and I will probably trade it in to a second hand bookstore soon enough. But it does make for good light reading; if you consider a little murder and deathly curses light that is. A good carry along for a plane ride or holiday at the beach.