If you've never read one of Jeri Westerson's Crispin Guest Medieval Noir mysteries, now is the perfect time. Cup of Blood, the new release, is a prequel to the series. You can meet Crispin Guest, the disgraced knight, and learn how he first met up with young Jack Tucker. And, if you've read any of the books in this historical mystery series, Cup of Blood will remind you why Crispin Guest and Jack Tucker make a terrific team.
Seven years earlier, Crispin Guest was stripped of his knighthood when he was found guilty of treason. He spent those years trying to survive, until he became the "Tracker", hired to find lost objects. He still remembers the people who turned their backs on him, though, and some of those people will end up involved in the strangest investigation of his career. Crispin is in his favorite London tavern when a young cutpurse tries to steal his purse. Crispin catches Jack Tucker, but when they approach one of the other men, thinking he was dead drunk, they discover he was just dead. And, his death leads Crispin into trouble. It seems the dead man was a Knight Templar, a warrior monk from the group that was abolished and disappeared seventy years earlier.
When Crispin convinces the sheriff that Jack didn't kill the man in the bar, the young street urchin begs to become Crispin's servant. Jack isn't always there to watch Crispin's back, but he's there to rescue him when men kidnap him, and demand he tell them where "it is". It's the first of a number of people who beg or insist that Crispin find or turn over some unknown item. How many people are determined to hire Crispin? Two groups of "monks", a secretive woman, and a woman from Crispin's past. This missing item, and the murder of a mysterious Knight Templar, may put Crispin in the worst danger of his life.
Westerson's prequel to the Crispin Guest series is a wonderful introduction to the disgraced knight. In the course of this mystery, set in 1384, she sets the stage introducing Crispin, Jack Tucker, and the story of Crispin's past. She tells his story, the story of his loss, his bitterness, and his lack of awareness that he actually has better friends with the working people than he ever had as a knight. It takes young Jack Tucker, a boy of only eleven or so, to open his eyes. "Here was a boy who had nothing. Far less than Crispin, no prospects, no shelter, no hope. Yet he was as cheerful a soul as he had ever met." Jack's street smarts and his innate intelligence make him one of my favorite characters.
Crispin Guest and Jack Tucker are the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza of 14th century London, on their own grand adventures to right wrongs and maintain the knight's code of chivalry and honor, even if Crispin is no longer a knight. It's a team that struggles through the cruelty and brutality that comes with Crispin's profession, hunting thieves and killers. Jeri Westerson's Cup of Blood is a riveting introduction to her characters, the setting, and medieval mysteries.
Jeri Westerson's website is www.JeriWesterson.com, and she's on Facebook as Jeri Westerson (Crispin Guest).
Cup of Blood by Jeri Westerson. Old London Press. ISBN 9781497476127 (paperback), 310p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.