by Jeri Westerson
Crispin Guest, Tracker of London, is enjoying his ale in the Boar’s Tusk tavern – until a stranger leaves a mysterious wrapped bundle on his table, telling him, “You’ll know what to do.”
Inside is an ancient leather-bound book written in an unrecognizable language.
Accompanied by his apprentice, Jack Tucker, Crispin takes the unknown codex to a hidden rabbi, where they make a shocking discovery: it is the Gospel of Judas from the Holy Land, and its contents challenge the very doctrine of Christianity itself.
Crispin is soon drawn into a deadly maze involving murder, living saints, and lethal henchmen.
Why was he given the blasphemous book, and what should he do with it?
A series of horrific events confirm his fears that there are powerful men who want it – and who will stop at nothing to see it destroyed.
Wow! Is that not the most intriguing blurb ever? That, and the very gorgeous cover, drew me in. And, it didn’t even matter that this was the twelfth book in a series, which just proves the quality of the writing.
The story takes place, for the most part, in late 14th century London. Crispin Guest, a former knight is now living in The Shambles with his apprentice Jack Tucker and Jack’s young family.
In his role as a tracker now (a detective in modern parlance), Crispin is used to handling odd cases, but not of the sort that is dropped on his table in the Boar’s Tusk Tavern. He takes the mysterious parcel home and unwraps it to find an old book written in a language he cannot decipher.
He seeks out those he hopes can identify the book and its language, and while he succeeds in that, the repercussions for those who aid him are fatal. Now he knows the book is a missing Gospel – the Judas Gospel – and one which the Catholic Church deems as “dangerous” and therefore must be destroyed. There are those amongst the shadows who wish to relieve him of the book, but they have seriously underestimated Crispin if they believe he will simply hand it over.
As Crispin endeavours to keep the book safe, in the hope of returning it to its rightful owner, other events – besides those intent on doing him harm if he holds on to the book – distract him. The three men who helped him out earlier are murdered, there’s an impostor posing as him and putting his reputation at risk, and he is drawn back into the court of King Richard II when the Queen dies. Having been banished years before, this move puts his life in danger but he cannot stay away.
With all this going on, the author still adds depth to Crispin’s life outside of his job. Firstly, with details of his lost love and the young son he cannot acknowledge, then with an insight into his past life at court and his bond with Lancaster, and finally with his acceptance of his current status and the role that Jack and his family play in bringing him peace and joy despite his less affluent lifestyle.
This story comes across as atmospheric and authentic in its historical setting, and compelling and intriguing as a mystery. Despite there being much of Crispin’s past that has been dealt with in previous books of the series, this can be read easily as a standalone story. That said, I am sorely tempted to delve into earlier books and learn more of Crispin’s fascinating history.
My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for an advance copy in return for my honest review.
PS – as a bit of a word nerd, I can’t tell you how delighted I was to see the word “whence” used correctly 😉
Get your copy here, and enjoy!