Book Reviews

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to Book Review List


The Good Men: A Novel of Heresy by Charmaine Craig




Click on title or picture to buy from



Light on the Dark Ages

In her debut novel, The Good Men: A Novel of Heresy, Charmaine Craig shows off significant talent and delivers a novel with rich character development, a strong plot, believable dialogue and poetic description. To appreciate this book, you need not know that the Cathars were a heretic Roman Catholic sect whose ideas spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. “They believed in two co-eternal principles: God, creator of light and spirit, and Satan, creator of darkness and matter…. So rampant was Catharism in Languedoc by the dawning of the thirteenth century that in 1208, Pope Innocent III called for a crusade against it…. Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition that would exterminate any remaining heresy.”

Craig brings that time alive in The Good Men. Here’s an excerpt:

“The rector returned that afternoon in his black stole, carrying his vessels, and she stayed far from him. The henchman also came – the pockmarked boy bearing a cross and a look of pity in his eye, and the other carrying a stoup of holy water. With the salt of sorrow still in her throat, she watched as the rector sprinkled water over the old woman’s body in the coffin, reciting prayers. Several men, among the mourners hoisted the coffin and followed the rector, who followed the henchmen from the house toward the chapel.
The heat was sweltering, the sighing of the poplars far above the only breeze. Fabrisse shaded her head with her hands and saw the pigs fenced in a corner of her yard, lying on their sides and panting. With Echo beside her, she followed the others, dragging her feet over the hardened ruts that wheels had furrowed in moister days, passing chickens squawking for want of grain and the dung heap, fuming. A mutt howled as they entered its shade under the arching elm, and then passed into the churchyard with a new grave dug from the grass, yellow as piss. They pushed through the narrow chapel door, toward the hint of coolness inside.
The coffin was placed in the center of the floor, and candles were lit all around. Fabrisse stood beside Echo, flies biting at the skin around her eyes as the rector said the vespers for the dead. ‘Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,; et lux perpetua luceat eis …’
After the Mass the coffin was carried out to the grave, and Fabrisse listened to the soft noise of legs brushing cloth as mourners left the chapel, the noise of men breathing under the strain of the dead body’s weight. The heat of the day pushed down from the dusky sky, and the coffin was set among the stones on one side of the grave. People chanted sluggishly. The rector sprinkled the coffin again with holy water, praying as it was lowered into the ground, ‘Grant this mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to Thy servant departed, that she may not receive in punishment the requital of her deeds who in desire did keep Thy will, and as the true faith here united her to the company of the faithful, so may Thy mercy unite her above to the choirs of angels.’
The true faith, thought Frbrisse, the company of the faithful … How could the rector pray so falsely? Mother Rives had remained faithful indeed – but to a faith far different from that of the Church. Where was Fabrisse to find faith among so much pretending, so much loss? Even life seemed nothing more to her now than a reverie, with bodies so feeble they slipped away as in dreams.”

Craig lets readers move along through many years in the life of a sinful priest, his lovers, a dedicated Dominican inquisitor, and reveals the strength of individuals, especially of women, when faced with the challenges of life and belief. The Good Men is a fine first novel, and I hope Craig finds other stories she wants to tell her waiting readers.

Steve Hopkins, March 6, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC