Monday, October 10, 2011

Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson

I just fell in love with a character, Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest. Troubled Bones is the fourth in her medieval noir series. Now, I have to go back and read the three earlier books. Fortunately, they’re in that bottomless pit I call a closet.

Crispin Guest was once a knight, but he lost everything, his barony, his lands, and his knighthood, eight years earlier because of a trap to discover traitors against the king. His patron intervened, and Crispin was allowed to live, but he almost starved until he discovered a talent for investigating crime.  Now, as London’s Tracker, he works with his protégé, a thirteen-year-old former beggar, Jack Tucker.

One night of drunkenness in a tavern, though, forces Crispin to take a job for the Archbishop of Canterbury, William de Courtenay. He had two jobs for Guest. Lollard heretics had threatened to steal the bones of Thomas à Becket, and the Archbishop wanted Crispin to protect them. And, he suspected one of his own monks was a Lollard, and wanted Guest to uncover the heretic.

As soon as Crispin arrives at his lodging, he finds a group of pilgrims there, including an old friend, Geoffrey Chaucer. It’s an unusual group of travelers, including a priest and nuns, a mistress from Bath, a Pardoner, a miller. And, when one of that party is murdered during Crispin’s watch in the cathedral, he’s determined to find the killer. It isn’t long, though, before suspicion falls on Guest’s old friend, Chaucer.

Fans of historical mysteries should appreciate this combination of history and literature as readers get the chance to “meet” some of Chaucer’s pilgrims from The Canterbury Tales. But, you don’t have to like historicals to enjoy the fascinating puzzle in Westerson’s latest mystery. The pace is faster, and the story more readable than many historical mysteries. It doesn’t get bogged down in the details.  Troubled Bones is a compelling mystery with complex webs of intrigue, and the pace of a thriller.

Crispin Guest and Jack Tucker may have been down on their luck, but they have a code of honor. Westerson’s author’s notes indicate that Jack is growing up, so it will be interesting to go back and read about the two characters in the earlier books.  Westerson’s character description and development were excellent. It was easy to become caught up in the lives of Crispin and Jack, even though this was the first book I read in the series.

Troubled Bones offers so much for mystery readers, good characters, a fascinating plot, history and suspense. If you can’t get the earlier books, don’t hesitate to start with this one. But, I’m going back to learn more about Crispin Guest, the disgraced knight, and his apprentice, Jack Tucker.

Jeri Westerson's website is

Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson. St. Martin’s Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312621636 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Liz V. said...

Enjoy history mixed with mystery. Maybe this will make up for enduring Chaucer way back when.

Lesa said...

Oh, that's funny, Liz. Jeri is going to be at Velma Teague 2 weeks from today. I had a co-worker who had to memorize the prologue, and can't wait to talk to Jeri about it.

Jeri Westerson said...

I loved The Canterbury Tales growing up. Even memorized some of the Middle English! Yes, this will definitely make it easier to take.

Lesa said...

Ah, so you know the prologue in Middle English, too. You and Anna will be able to recite it together. She learned it in Middle English, too.