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Serpent in the Thorns: A Medieval Noir (Crispin Guest Novels) by Jeri Westerson

Serpent in the ThornsReviewed by Teri Davis

Crispin Guest is not your typical resident of London during the year of 1384. Having grown up in a life of privilege and even becoming a respected knight in service to the king.

When Richard II came to the throne as a boy, many people questioned his right to the crown and whether someone else would be a better leader for the people. Child kings do not possess the wisdom of their elders and the years of life experiences. Crispin’s mentor was one of those who could have claimed a right to the throne.

Through scheming and aligning himself with the wrong people at the wrong time, Crispin found himself in the position of being a threat to the king. Most of those with him were executed, but Guest’s life was saved by the young king only through the intervention of his former mentor.

Now Crispin is stripped of all his possessions and title by the king and forced to begin a new life.

With no family or friends that will help him in any way, Crispin became the Tracker.

For a fee, he will agree to track down the truth by investigating a crime and present the evidence to the Sheriffs who tend to solve crimes quickly, frequently punishing those who are closest to the victims. The Tracker is a commoner with uncommon investigative skills. He attempts to right the wrongs through his connections with numerous people.

Grayce arrives at Crispin’s informing him that she has killed a man. Naturally Crispin questions this young woman and quickly assesses that she has a limited mental capacity but she seemed truthful and concerned. Grayce wants the Tracker to discover how she killed this man. Crispin arrives at her place where he quickly discovers a dead French courier and a box with a crown of thorns inside it. To Grayce the only logical explanation would be that she killed the man. Crispin realizes that if he does not help, Grayce will be hung as a murderer.

Crispin quickly discovers that there were three French couriers from the French king who was willing to share a treasured religious relic as a peace offering. How can Crispin possibly save her from confessing to the Sheriff and being hung?

Serpent in the Thorns is a fast-paced adventure into life in London both at the castle and among the commoners in town during the Middle Ages. Jeri Westerson again has written an outstanding mystery encapsulating the past into a logical and readable story. Her descriptions are so vivid that besides visualizing the scenes and events, you can also smell the scents of London. She also separates the fiction from the actual people with her author’s notes at the conclusion of this novel and a quick glossary for terms that are not in general use today.

Jeri Westerson is a masterful writer of this time period with her novels featuring Crispin Guest. This is the second book in this series. As I have read these books out of order, the characters are believable and realistic in each without needing information from the previous adventures. Currently, there are five books in this series: Veil of Lies, The Demon’s Parchment, Troubled Bones, Blood Lance, and Shadow of the Alchemist. Jeri Westerson’s marvelous Crispin Guest adventures.

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