by Jeri Westerson
With eleven books in the Crispin Guest series—and counting—it’s easy to start in the middle and that’s what I did. Luckily it didn’t matter; we get enough background on Crispin’s unfortunate history to pick up the threads quickly. A dishonored knight turned “finder” to eke out a living, Crispin could rely on his past to hob-nob with the upper crust—even though he is scorned as a traitor—while his cursed past lends him unusual empathy for those less fortunate than himself. In this book, he is hired by the unpleasant Archbishop of Canterbury to guard the bones of St. Thomas Becket against Lollard threats to steal them. Of course, things go terribly wrong and he finds himself right in the middle of a double murder scandal—as well as losing the relics. Worse than that, his old friend Chaucer (from better days) has been implicated; Crispin doesn’t believe he is guilty but the circumstantial evidence is damning:
Chaucer glared. “This is very pretty. You haven’t seen me in eight years and you simply assume now that I am a murderer.”
“You’ve admitted to being a thief and a spy. Can murderer be far behind?”
Chaucer shook his head and rose. “I never would have believed it of you, Cris. That you would have become so hard and immovable. True, you were always a bit stiff but never so hard-hearted.”
“Live in my shoes for a day and you might understand.”
Chaucer’s arrest is a great boon for the archbishop who would like nothing better than to execute one of Lancaster’s adherents; guilt by association was strong in those days and Gaunt—along with his retainers—were all considered heretics due to Gaunt’s support of Wycliffe. With the clock ticking, Crispin is led a merry chase; everyone seems to have something to hide and more than one person could have a motive. Lucky for him, his trusty apprentice Jack reluctantly agrees to pose as a visiting monk and manages to uncover some critical evidence. The story is quick, perplexing, and satisfying. I really enjoyed it.