Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight, stripped of his rank and his honor - but left with his life - for plotting against Richard II. Having lost his bethrothed, his friends, his patrons and his position in society. With no trade to support him and no family willing to acknowledge him, Crispin has turned to the one thing he still has - his wits - to scrape a living together on the mean streets of London.
In 1383, Guest is called to the compound of a merchant - a reclusive mercer who suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and wants Guest to look into the matter. Not wishing to sully himself in such disgraceful, dishonorable business but in dire need of money, Guest agrees and discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, presumably nothing good. But when he comes to inform his client, he is found dead - murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside.
Now Guest has come to the unwanted attention of the Lord Sheriff of London and most recent client was murdered while he was working for him. And everything seems to turn on a religious relic - a veil reported to have wiped the brow of Christ - that is now missing.
©2008 Jeri Westerson (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
"A great read, through and through. Westerson's finely wrought portrait of gritty Medieval London is embued with great wit and poignancy. Crispin Guest is a knight to remember." (Cornelia Read, author of A Field of Darkness)
avid audio books listener
I loved this book. It's like Sam Spade meets the Middle Ages. This first of the Crispin Guest series is set in London in 1384. Crispin is a disgraced knight who had had his lands, title, and money confiscated seven years earlier for participating in an attempt to crown John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, as King instead of the Duke's young and inexperienced nephew, Richard.
Lancaster is unaware of the attempted coup. The conspiracy fails, Richard is crowned King Richard II, and all of the conspirators except Crispin (thanks to the intercession of the Duke of Lancaster) are executed.
Crispin now lives in the Shambles in London - which is as poor a neighborhood as it sounds - along with a twelve year old purse cutter, Jack Tucker, whom he rescued from the streets of London. There are lots of twists and turns, and class consciousness-- by Crispin toward the dregs of society that he's now forced to live with and depend upon, and by Crispin's former friends who look down on Crispin because he's now a member of the lower class.
Parliament finally removed Richard as King and crowned Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, as King Henry IV, but not until 1399. Richard died in 1400 - possiblly murdered.
I liked this book so much I downloaded it to my Kindle so I can see how some of the words I didn't know are spelled.
The author skillfully weaves actual historical people and events with her story. As a history major, I loved it! Michael Page does a fine job narrating.
I've now listened to all five books in the series that are currently available on audible. The sixth book comes out 13 October 2013. I'll be waiting.
I will begin with the one good quality I saw in this purchase—the plot is reasonable. Nevertheless, I had to force myself to continue listening to discover the outcome. There are two things I found so infuriating about the book that I was tempted many time to give up listening. Together the writing and the performance made me wonder at times whether I had bought a Monty Python spoof of a medieval crime story.
The author's biography suggests that she grew up with an interest in medieval history. Unfortunately, that interest did not seem to extend to knowing how people spoke at the time and the words they used. And, it is not just the anachronistic words but the strange use of common words. For example, a "trill" ran through the protagonist at one point; so I assume that a person or bird was trilling very loudly indeed nearby.
The romantic thread to the story reads as if it was written by a student of teenage romance comics. A benefit if you like a character's emotional life to be, at most, one dimensional. If you are looking for a male lead with some complexity of emotional response I don't feel that you will find it in this book.
It seems to me that in contemporary cops shows we hear a detective/cop/vigilante say so often to a suspect "we can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way" that it has become a cliché. So, it was comforting to hear the hero—a disgraced knight now commoner—saying this to one of the villains.At least I now understood I was hearing a professional crime fighter at work.
Mentioning that the hero was a disgraced knight, very bitter about his lot, leads to discussing the performance. The knight is interpreted by the performer as shouting everything through clenched teeth which, I imagine, lets us know that he is both tough and bitter. Occasionally, the constrained shouting takes on an added edge of hysteria and that, at least, adds some variation. Another character, the Sheriff, who seems to be a large and dominant person much taken to cuffing and bashing the hero, is performed with a strange lisp which is neither evil nor interesting. He sounds like a parody of a not quite upper class Englishman. The performer does the other characters quite well. That is, if you accept that all medieval Italians (the bad guys) sound like the faux Italian waiter at the local Pizza joint.
I will not be spending my Audible tokens on any more of Ms Waterson's books.
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