The hero of this tale is disgraced knight Crispin Guest, who's lucky to be alive after having been caught in a treason against a young Richard II. This time he's hired by a wealthy clothing merchant, Nicholas Walcote, to spy on his young wife Phillipa, whom he believes is having an affair. I love the medieval period, though I certainly wouldn't want to live in it.
This is the first in a series about Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight, who is now working as a finder, the Tracker he is called; someone who discovers culprits or things people have lost. I'll read more in the series, but I knocked off a couple of the infamous stars, as I felt the plot lines remained indistinct as did the rather confusing battle scene on the bridge at the end of the novel.
Now I know little to nothing about London in 1384, so Im not going to comment on the historical accuracy. Crispin has to work and live among the lower classes, but in his mind he still feels like he is above them, an attitude he is at times ashamed of but cant alter. For me, though, the plot was really secondary to the character of Crispin and the late 14-century setting.
If I hadn't read the afterword, I'd never have associated this book with the hardboiled detective stories that helped to inspire it. I also couldn't shake the feeling that the author wanted me to sympathize with Crispin far more than I was able to.
I really gobbled it up which is what you want from a book like this.
In Ms Westerson's debut in a genre dubbed Medieval Noir, Crispin Guest, a former knight who has lost everything due to an ill-advised foray into treason and now struggles to make a living as a 'watcher', is hired by a wealthy, eccentric merchant to investigate the possibility that the merchant's nubile wife is an adulteress.
It got on my nerves that Crispin still feels like he is better than most of the people he comes in contact with and his tendency to look down on others did not endear him to me, even though I do think he is fundamentally a good man. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, so one of them getting killed and all the others being possibly involved in some way or other also didn't really get me interested.
I loved the protag Crispin Guest. I especially liked Crispins servant Jack. For all that I loved Crispin, there were moments where I lost his character. Answers to problems came a little too conveniently and I began to recognize a pattern for how things worked. Sometimes the dialogue lapsed into speech patterns too modern for medieval times, and I seriously disliked Crispins love interest.
Ms. Westerson has taken the Raymond Chandler noir detective idea of a detective-knight with his own quixotic but unshakable moral code and a weakness for damsels in distress quite literally. Crispin is an interesting protagonist and I particularly like that the author has not tried to make him a politically correct modern man in Medieval clothing.
Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of eleven Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels, a series nominated for 13 national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. She frequently guest lectures on medieval history at local colleges and museums, and lives in southern California with her home-brewing husband, a complacent desert tortoise, and 40,000 bees.