Jeri Westerson has penned A SERPENT IN THORNS to extend her opening medieval noir mystery, A VEIL OF LIES. Crispin Guest, a dishonored knight, is yanked from a bad hangover to come to the aid of a simple scullery maid who claims she killed a man in her room.
He finds the body of a French courier with an arrow in his throat with a special gift from the King of France to the young Richard II. A swift search of the man's belongings shows he was not robbed and the gold casket containing the famous crown of thorns is intact. Crispin's first allegiance is to his client and her sister who pays his fee.
Many men want the gift to insulate themselves with the king, who as a child stripped Crispin of his lands and knighthood. Crispin wants the truth and to regain his knighthood. The plot is intricate and fast paced, it will keep you glued to your chair as you follow Crispin and his London slums servant through the dark allies of London to the hall of the King in search of answers. The Tracker finds lost things and discovers answers he may not want to obtain from the world of Court politics.
The previous reviewer should check KINGS, RULERS, AND STATESMEN p. 187-188 for verification of time periods, as I did when her review puzzled me.
Nash Black, author of Indie Finalists WRITING AS A SMALL BUSINESS and HAINTS.
on December 7, 2009
The one-word review: Wow! I was gobsmacked, knocked out, my socks knocked off, too by the excellence of Ms. Westerson's book and moved to tears by its pitch-perfect ending. Not only is it one of the best books I've read this year, but SERPENT IN THE THORNS has just joined the select ranks of my personal all-time best list, equaling this year's other big find for me, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, in its big heart and soul and its non-stop action involving the beleaguered hero in ever-escalating peril as he struggles to do the right thing.
From the beginning we are plunged into 12th-century London in all its sensory squalor and splendor with details that never overwhelm characters and story but place them in a satisfyingly realized culture and milieu that transports the reader as if s/he had stepped into a time machine. I was hooked from the opening paragraphs where Crispin Guest, disgraced former knight, wakes from a hangovered sleep to confront a lower-class woman pleading for help. His new title and profession is "the Tracker," a man who finds missing objects and investigates crime. The new client's problem? There is a dead man in her room and she has no idea who he is. From there, the pages fly under our fingers and the action never stops.
But like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, the non-stop action is grounded in the deeper themes of honor and what makes life worth living, themes that play throughout the book in the fully realized, three-dimensional characters of Crispin and his friends and foes. The course of redemption that Crispin charts is reminiscent of William Monk's progress in Anne Perry's well-loved series. Unlike Monk, Crispin has his memories intact--indeed, too much so for his own comfort--and unlike Monk, he has little of which to be ashamed, but his new life among London's lower classes has taught him to look at his fellow creatures through new eyes, to see other people as beings like himself rather than tools he may call upon to serve his own pleasure. Like Monk, Crispin Guest has learned compassion. Like Monk, he is a new man leading a redeemed life.
But all this is accomplished with a light touch that eschews any taint of preaching or sentimentality, beneath the surface of a swashbuckling, action-packed story full of colorful characters, colorful settings, and colorful language replete with salty olde English expletives. Ms. Westerson should be proud.
on November 2, 2009
Author Jeri Westerson has added another sterling chapter to her marvelous tale of 14th Century knight, Crispin Guest, in Serpent in the Thorns. Guest, a former knight who had pledged his loyalty to the one man in England he truly trusted, was accused of treason and stripped of his title, lands, and everything he thinks made him worthy of respect. The only reason he remained alive was because King Richard II thought stripping him of everything and tossing him into the street would be the most satisfying punishment. The young king knew the man better than the man knew himself.
This medieval noir tale finds Guest living in the Shambles, one of the roughest areas of London, working as a tracker. Think: Sam Spade with a dagger and cotehardie instead of a gun and a trench coat.
The case that ensnares him begins when a dull-witted wench pleads for him to help her. She thinks she killed the man lying in her room. The man was shot by an arrow and Guest cannot believe this simple woman had the strength, much less the skill, to kill the man with a well-placed arrow.
The man turns out to be a courier from the French king who is in London delivering a relic purported to have mystic powers. The prize, the Crown of Thorns. Those in its presence seem to have unyielding courage and perhaps immortality, but there is a catch.
As Guest tries to sort out who the killer is, he is in a quandary as to where the relic should go. He hides it, but there are those with evil intent who want it for more sinister reasons.
But while Guest is searching for the killer, eyes start turning toward him, after all, he was a marksman when he was a knight. As more arrows fly, Guest and his trusty sidekick, Jack, a cutpurse or pickpocket by trade, escape the hangman's noose, but for how long?
Just as in any good detective story, there are many suspects, each with a tale to tell, and the real villain comes as a surprise. But what Crispin Guest learns about himself in the end is the most fascinating tale of all.
Truly a knight to remember...
on November 6, 2010
Already a fan of historical novels, I was intrigued by the premise of Jeri's series. And then I started to read. I'm an aspiring writer who reads very critically. Looking for good examples but more often find bad writing. But I fell in love immediately with Crispin, the world, the panoply of characters, and the mystery. And promptly forgot to look for writing techniques. This is pure pleasure.
But I do have a problem. I'm going back on coffee at night so I won't read myself to sleep while I have one of the Crispin books in hand. Then I'll have to do the coffee withdrawal all over again. Unless Jeri has a fourth book ready by next month?
on September 6, 2014
Crispin Guest is the Tracker, a knight at one time, he was cnvicted of treason and stripped of his knighthood, his lands, his money and most of his friends and banned from the castle. He only retained his head because of an intervention by the Duke of Lancaster. Now he lives in the Shambles with his apprentice Jack Tucker, a young man who was a one time thief.Guest works the mean streets of 14th century London, building a small reputation for his skill. In 1383, a simple-minded tavern girl comes to his door, a body was found where she works and she's the only person who could have killed him. Except for the fact that the man was killed in place by a precisely aimed crossbow bolt. Making matters worse, the murdered man was one of three couriers from the French king, transporting a relic intended to smooth the troubled relations between France and England. Events quickly spin out of control and Guest now finds himself the prime suspect in the murder, one with terrible diplomatic implications. As the drumbeat of war between the two countries grow, Guest must unravel the conspiracy behind the murder to save not only his country, but himself as wel.
on October 11, 2015
I'm a great fan of Medieval fiction, and especially mysteries. Jeri Westerson earns a place with some whom I consider the masters... Ellis Peters, Margaret Fraser, Michael Jecks. The Crispin Guest mysteries are cunningly written, with excellent plot lines and character development.
Serpent in the Thorns, second in her series, follows Crispin, "The Tracker," through murder and intrigue in the hopes of retrieving his lost knighthood. Not wanting to give anything away, he learns much more about himself and his companions than he ever expected.
on September 30, 2013
I enjoy mysteries and I enjoy historical fiction. In this I have both. The degraded knight and the orphan cutpurse are an unlikely duo but it works. Guest maybe degraded but he has not lost his honor. And that honor is what keeps him going. Yes he wants to be a knight again but if it means his honor has to fall by the wayside it he will not accept the title. Besides, he has to help Jack better himself. The mystery is on enhanced by the inter- actions of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jeri Westerson has a winning premise
on December 21, 2012
Medieval times. A dis-honored knight turned detective follows clues to solve a crime without the help of our modern technology and/or forensics. How does he do that? The capers of the characters make them come to life and made me feel a kinship with them. This is just one book of a series, but could be read as a "stand alone". This authors research and ability to put it all together into such an entertaining story is amazing. I so enjoyed this that I can't wait for the next release!
on October 20, 2014
Another perfect outing for Crispin Guest and author Jeri Westerson. This is one series of historical mysteries that just gets better with each new book. I would rank this series on a par with Ellis Peters's incomparable Brother Cadfael series, which is high praise indeed. Wonderfully delineated characters, intriguing plot twists, and suspense that may have the reader holding his/her breath at times. Highly recommended!
on March 2, 2014
Ms Westerson's done it again! The story carries you along at a pace that makes you want to forget all the things you're supposed to be doing and just read. And the back story of Crispin's past is the second mystery in the novel that carries through. Couldn't wait to get to the end and was surprised by it, too. Great reading!