Berkley, Nov 2003, 22.95, 320 pp.
In 1354 medieval Spain, Bishop Berengeur de Cruilles trusts Isaac the blind Jewish physician so when he falls ill, he summons the man to care for him. Isaac's daughter Rachel, as his assistant also comes to help. An herbalist arrives, desperate to see the bishop to give him a warning but the poison in his bloodstream kills him before he can tell his excellency about the threat.
In Girona, two young men each claims that they are heir to a large inheritance. One of them Jacob disappears during a pirate attack. The other claimant Luca an herbalist attempts to set up a practice. When two of his patients are murdered by poison that he had a messenger deliver, the townsfolk's want him tried and executed. Isaac implores the Bishop to wait before convening the court because he believes it was not Luca who delivered the poison. He also believes that these events are somehow related to the dead herbalist who tried to warn the bishop. In his own intuitive yet practical way Isaac tries to expose the guilty party.
Medieval Spain comes vividly to life in the reader's mind after reading A POULTICE FOR A HEAVEN. It feels as if the author is chronicling events that she witnessed. The characters are well developed and it is fascinating to see the relationship between Christians and Jews during a period of religious strife. The people of Girona peacefully coexist with only minor troubles breaking out between the two religions. The protagonist might be blind but he sees more clearly than most people. Fans of historical fiction centered on a good mystery will want to read this novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner