Troubled Bones: A Medieval Noir
by Jeri Westerson
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312621636
Date: 11 October 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Former knight Crispin Guest's fourth investigation, Troubled Bones, brings him to Canterbury, Becket's bones, and murder. Tried for treason and striped of his titles and property, Crispin has become the Tracker, a man who pursues lost objects and solves murders. The Archbishop of Canterbury has ordered Crispin to prevent the theft of Becket's bones by Lollards. Then, a prioress is hacked to death in the same chapel where Thomas á Becket had been struck down two hundred years earlier and the archbishop demands Crispin find the killer.
Once the protégé of the Duke of Lancaster, Crispin now lives on the fringe of society. In the cathedral, he encounters an old friend, Geoffrey Chaucer, poet and sometimes spy for Lancaster. Later, at the Martyr's Inn where he and his servant Jack take lodgings, they meet a band of pilgrims including many of the names from Chaucer's tale. The lusty Wife of Bath has her eye on Crispin. The Miller, a Summoner, a Pardoner, a Franklin (a wealthy landholder), a priest, nun, and the prioress round out the company. Jack becomes infatuated with the young nun who accompanied the prioress.
Crispin guards the bones, but someone attacks and knocks him unconscious. He wakes to horrific screams and discovers the prioress dead and the nun in shock. He finds a bit of red cloth caught in a door leading to a tower. Too many people wear red: the Archbishop, Chaucer, and the Franklin. The prioress won a lawsuit against the Franklin a year ago that left him embittered. Crispin considers him a prime candidate for the murderer.
A young monk hints to Crisping that he knows something, but someone kills him before Crispin learns what. To that end, he sends Jack in disguise to learn what the young monk knew. Jack collects gossip concerning the treasurer and meets an old pensioner who may know something.
As always, Westerson provide a solid background of the period and interweaves bits of Chaucer's tales into the mystery. A mysterious presence at a critical moment provides the sort of miracle element she always incorporates. The review of The Demon's Parchment noted a few of the well-known authors of medieval mysteries. Blood Lance is the title of Crispin's next adventure.