by Kathleen Costa
& Lorie Lewis Ham
This review is a bit different as both Kathleen and Lorie share some thoughts on this wonderful book. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook through NetGalley of Spiteful Bones, and a links to purchase it from Amazon and an indie bookstore.
Crispin Guest, a Medieval Sam Spade
It’s the late fourteenth century London, and Crispin Guest is dealing with the consequences of his treasonous actions against Richard II. He has his head and entrails intact, but the loss of his rank, his position, his fiancée, his friends, and all support to make a living leave little for which to be thankful. However, he does have his wits on which in the past he has relied, if only he had a plan to use them to survive on the city’s mean streets. Circumstances, however, have steered Guest into the unique occupation as a tracker, a detective of sorts, hired to investigate indiscretions, suspicions, and thefts often resulting in murder and to advance the king’s justice. With the city and beyond full of dark intentions and misdeeds, Crispin Guest finds much work, and in many ways he finds respect and redemption.
It’s 1398. Crispin has much for which to be thankful: good work, a respected position in the community, a family, of sorts, and being able to directly engage as father and son with Christopher Walcote. Although it is very problematic to do so publicly, he is comforted by the opportunity to impart some of his skill and knowledge to the young man, especially when the young man is captivated by his life as a tracker. When a knock at the door heralds a plea for Crispin’s services, he allows his son to tag along with him and Jack Tucker, his close servant turned apprentice. “This is what you do all the time, isn’t it? Look at corpses and puzzle out who did it. This is far more interesting than being a mercer.”
Nigellus Cobmartin, the barrister who defended Guest on murder charges, is knee deep in an extensive renovation of the family manor, a manor he finally inherited after the death of his brother. Along with his “wife,” they plan to take up residence and return the manor to its former glory. Then, a call out and a workman running to alert the Cobmartins of a disturbing find: a skeleton, bound hands and feet, gagged, and in possession of a gold and jeweled reliquary long thought stolen from Cobmartin’s father. Crispin Guest is enlisted, and with closer scrutiny, it is revealed the skeleton is the servant who, twenty years ago, was thought to be the thief of the prized relic. The mystery is made more intriguing when attempting to review the daily records from April, 1378, for clues, they are discovered smoldering on the steward’s office floor. Someone, now, twenty years later, is intent on keeping the truth hidden.
Kathleen says, 5+/5 Reliquaries! Jeri Westerson’s newest Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery book is the fourteenth in a long list of well-written and engaging adventures with rich characters and steeped in the Medieval setting of which I am passionately fascinated. The book begins with an Author’s Note, Notes About Characters, and a Glossary providing historical context, background, and definitions for some foundation that newbies as well as regular fans should not overlook. The drama is complex and compelling, well-written in description and dialogue that does well to present Medieval language and speech. It is steady paced with clever twists and turns, and misdirection focusing on my favorite element: a twenty-year-old cold case. But, it’s not the twenty-first century with high-tech forensic labs, “old school” methods are used to uncover the truth the “tracker” relying on literally hunting down witnesses, interrogating, and sifting through clues and reports all without the sheriffs who are more “keepers of the peace” than true investigators.
Beyond the fascinating world and drama created, it is the characters that have made me a fan. Crispin Guest has evolved over the series making himself well-known, if not feared, but he continues to live paycheck to paycheck in a way and building a happy, yet often chaotic, home life. He still deals with the aftermath of his ill-conceived opposition to the king, but he is able to engage with his son and act the fun uncle with his apprentice’s children. Jack, his apprentice, has matured and is more a younger brother and business partner, and Christopher, his son, has gained much from his father. But the most interesting character is John Rykener (aka Madame Eleanor Cobmartin). who is a real historic figure mentioned in the law rolls of 1395 as arrested for “dressing like a woman.” I found including such a character refreshing, and in my view respectfully, yet seems realistically, portrayed as a deeply complex, loving and loyal friend. This group of characters are diverse making the medieval world familiar and easy with which to identify with a contemporary lens. I love the series, and this book was a favorite…Sam Spade medieval-style!
Lorie says, this is one of my favorite series! The books are a perfect combination of the world of knights and castles and a great mystery! Like Kathleen, as much as I love the setting and the history, it is the wonderful and diverse characters that make this series so delightful. I have very much enjoyed seeing how much Crispin and Jack have grown over the years, and it is wonderful as the series nears an end to see Crispin content in his life. One of my favorite characters is John Rykener and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him featured so heavily in Spiteful Bones. This is a series not to be missed and each book just keeps getting better! I look forward to the next and final book in the series with both sadness and joy as it will be hard to see these characters go, but I am sure the final book will be amazing! If you haven’t read this series yet, get out there and check it out!
Be a Big Jeri Westerson Fan!
Award winning author of “medieval mysteries, historicals, and paranormals,” Jeri Westerson takes readers to different eras, different setting, and different characters, real and unreal. My introduction to her work was with the historical drama Roses in the Tempest: A Tale of Tudor England, reviewed HERE, then discovering three engaging series: the fourteen-book Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series transporting readers to the fourteenth century, the four-book urban fantasy series Booke of the Hidden, and the soon to be three-book Enchanter Chronicles, a gaslamp fantasy-steampunk series. She also writes the Moonriser: A Werewolf mystery and under the name Haley Walsh, the humorous Skyler Foxe LQBT mysteries. (You can find our reviews of many of Jeri’s books here on KRL and on KRL News and Reviews).
In case you missed it, an earlier episode of Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast features an earlier Crispin Guest book, Deepest Grave. If you would like to listen to the first chapter you can find it here. You can also listen on the player below.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Spiteful Bones (be aware that for this one you must join NetGalley to get your copy-but NetGalley doesn’t cost anything), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bones,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 27, 2021. U.S. residents only and you must be at least 18 to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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