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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review - Serpent in the Thorns

 Monday Jeri Westerson joined us here as a guest blogger.  Her last book, The Serpent in the Thorns has been on my to-be-read list and this was the ideal time to read it for a review to coincide with the guest blog.  I confess - I have now become a fan of this series.

Author: Jeri Westerson

Copyright: September 2009 (Minotaur); 288 pgs

Series: #2 in The Crispin Guest Novels

Sensuality: Some adult situations and innuendo

Mystery sub-genre: Medieval Historical

Main Character: Crispin Guest, disgraced knight of England making a living as an investigator

Setting: 1384 England

Obtained book through: Library Find

The book starts with Crispin Guest receiving a client at his lodgings.  A simple minded kitchen maid who has the problem of a murdered man in her rooms.  She asks "The Tracker" to help her.  When Crispin arrives at her rooms he finds a murdered French official bearing a valuable religious relic to be presented to England's king, The Crown of Thorns, still in the dead man's possession.  Crispin takes the girl and her sister into his protection while he works to discover who is the killer and what is the killer's real agenda.  This book seems to have everything, a murder, a mysterious religious relic, a potential plot against the king of England, and even a bit of swashbuckling action. A shot at redemption as an added spice is thrown in as well.
Crispin made a surprised sound, but before he could respond with a question, the door flung wide.  Crispin shot to his feet and blocked the woman from the unknown intruder.

A ginger-haired boy dashed into the room, slammed and bolted the door, and rested against it, panting.  He looked up at Crispin through a mane of curled locks.  Riotous freckles showed darker against his bone pale skin.
"Jack!"  Crispin put a hand to this throbbing head.  "What by God's toes are you doing?"

"Master," said the boy.  His gaze darted between the girl peering around Crispin's back and then up to Crispin again.  "Nought.  Nought much."

Crispin glared at his charge.  Jack Tucker was more trouble than any servant had a right to be.
 The series is referred to as "Medieval noir" but however you classify it I liked it.  The main character of Crispin Guest is complex and you begin to believe that he is better off as a person since he was stripped of his knighthood, title and lands.  Crispin has a troublesome yet loyal young servant boy (habitual pickpocket) who shines in this tale. Jack is a well portrayed sidekick who can be wise beyond his years when he isn't being chased for stealing. Crispin has learned the value of true friends in the inn-keepers and merchants he associates with since his banishment from the royal court.

The plot moved along at a steady pace and I hated to put it down.  At times you think you know where the story will lead - which is deceptive.  A few twists that kept me reading and tension was built up expertly.  No slow or sagging middle to push through - it sailed along keeping my interest.  The setting of Medieval London is deftly brought to life (not too much nor too little details) with a smooth writing style.  I enjoyed figuring out the killer and the scene when Crispin confronts the killer is nicely setup.  The story was well rounded out and full in every aspect.  I really liked the wrap up and the ending is stellar.  I can't wait for the next book in the series.

If you enjoy historical novels or like a slightly grity amateur sleuth novel I recommend this series.  Great fun.  If you haven't indulged in this book, give in now.

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JournoMich said...

Sounds like an interesting read. Anyone who can make this time period appealing to modern audiences while staying true to the voice of medeival times is quite talented. Thanks for the new read to add to my enormous TBR list!

Heading over to check out the voting now...

Southern City Mysteries

A.F. Heart said...

I think this book makes that time period come alive to the modern audience. You can tell the author does more than research, she has a fondness to medieval London.

Hey, I have to share my TBR pile woes by spreading the compulsion!!!

Jeri Westerson said...

Thanks, Michelle. It's a good one for the summer, because not only is it an action-packed read, it will make you feel cooler in dank old London. :)

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