Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Innocents Abroad by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

While reading The Innocents Abroad it's obvious Mark Twain was not impressed by the religious relics he saw in his journeys. He mentions a fragment of, and nails from, the True Cross, part of the crown of thorns, a marble chest containing St John's ashes and a length of chain used to confine him in prison, portraits of the Virgin Mary painted by St Luke, various saints' fingers (not to mention one of Judas Iscariot's bones), and a stone from the holy sepulchre.

As he put it:

But isn't this relic matter a little overdone? We find a piece of the  true cross in every old church we go into, and some of the
nails that held it together. I would not like to be positive, but I think we have  seen as much as a keg of these nails. Then there is the crown of thorns; they have part of  one in Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, and part of one also in Notre Dame. And as for bones of St. Denis,  I feel certain we have seen enough of them to duplicate him if necessary.

Obviously not everyone would agree, for such relics have been revered from the earliest days of the church. Forged relics, of course, were not 

Constantinople during the period in which we write held numerous relics of saints and martyrs and we specifically mentioned one in an earlier 
entry in our historical mystery series when in Five For Silver a holy fool attempts to steal the piece of the column of flagellation to which Christ was bound for his scourging. It was in the care of the Church of the Holy Apostles, which also possessed relics of Andrew, Luke, and a number of other saints and martyrs.

Naturally, relics of the Holy Family were particularly important. When we set out to write Ten For Dying we decided the item stolen from the Church of the Holy Apostles would be a piece of the shroud of the Mother of God, a relic currently said to be held by Aachen Cathedral. We based this on a fifth century history that relates Mary's shroud travelled from the Holy Land to the Church of the Virgin in Blachernae in Constantinople in the mid-400s.

Although one source terms it the Virgin's robe, as we state in the novel's afterword we took advantage of our literary license to subscribe 
to the view of Cyril of Scythopolis, who described the relic as Mary's shroud.

Thus as Ten For Dying opens, two demons run off with the piece of this shroud while a dark ceremony is in progress at the tomb of the recently deceased Empress Theodora...


Mary Reed and Eric Mayer co-write the John, Lord Chamberlain series, set in and around the sixth century Constantinople court of Justinian. The tenth entry, Ten For Dying, will appear from Poisoned Pen Press in March 2014. Information on this and their other fiction can be viewed on their website at


  1. Welcome to The View From My Mountaintop, Mary and Eric. What a lovely book cover. I can't wait to read your new historical novel.

  2. I have no claim to authentic relics, but over the years I've enjoyed collecting religious symbols and not for religious reasons. They give me an indefinable comfort... replica Russian icons, prayer cards from various missions in California, or large framed prints of Jesus and Mother Mary that were once installed in a parochial school that no longer exists. I bring these symbols and many others into my home with a sense of wonderment. Jets from Tullahoma Air Force Base fly over my home about once a month. Though I may be absent, I always know when they've flown overhead because Jesus will be a little askew. I pull out my Swifter mop and reach up to set him right again. Not very holy of me.

  3. What a terrific description of Ten For Dying! You had me at the two demons running off. Congrats on a new Lord Chamberlain.

  4. Mary and Eric are unable to post their replies, so here they are:

    First, our thanks for giving us the opportunity for talking about our
    new novel. We do appreciate that.

    To Reenie: We got a kick from your anecdote about the mop. A useful
    implement in more ways than one, it seems.

    Jennie: Thanks for the kind words! Always a bit scary launching a new
    novel, as you know.

  5. This is one of my favorite historical mystery series and I eagerly look forward to every one. Talk about an original and intriguing character!