Crispin Guest: It’s cold. London’s iciness inevitably creeps into my lodgings on the Shambles. It’s a small room above a tinker’s shop with a simple bed for me and a pile of straw for my apprentice Jack Tucker. The hearth is banked for the night, its ashes still warm when the morning sun, weak as it is, filters through the cracks in the shutters. Jack usually rises first to see to the fire, such as it is. Squares of peat don’t make much of a warm fire, but it cooks the meals, heats the water, and can at least uncurl cramped fingers.
Were I still a knight, still a lord, this would be a very different morn. In my past my servants, who carefully attend my fires at night, would have kept the room warm. My bed clothes would have been thick and comfortable. My valet would have water ready for my shave and ablutions. Food would be brought. All would have been ready for me. I took it for granted, believed it would always be so. But when I committed treason all those years ago, little did I realize that my life was to take such a drastic turn. King Richard—ten years old when he took the throne—was ready to execute me as he had the other conspirators who would have put John of Gaunt the duke of Lancaster and my mentor on the throne over him. When the duke pled for my life the king reluctantly granted his uncle’s wish and though my life was spared there was little left of my former life. Title, riches, land—all swept away with one word from his majesty, and I was set loose upon London with only the clothes on my back.
Some say I deserved to die. Sometimes I wonder that myself.
It was eleven years since I was banished from court, and seven years ago I embarked upon my new vocation as this so-called “Tracker”—a finder of lost objects…and the occasional murderer. The citizens of London, both rich and poor alike hire me to find lost and stolen goods. But more often than I would like, it involves a holy relic or venerated object. Many say that these objects are possessed of mystical powers, but I see little of that. Only the greed of Man as he extorts, connives, steals, and murders his fellow Man. Perhaps the Shambles, London’s butchering district, has made me harsh, but I have eyes, don’t I? I have seen it myself. And so I am hired, working for six pence a day…plus expenses.
Jack Tucker: Master Crispin, you aren’t saying it right.
Jack Tucker here, my master’s protégé and apprentice. Master Crispin can be…well. Stark at times. And so the way he says things can sometimes be—
Crispin: I am saying it perfectly well, Tucker. It isn’t your place to interrupt me.
Jack: All I’m saying, master, is that you make it sound so cruel and dark. And it’s nothing like that.
Crispin: Speak for yourself.
Jack: And so I shall.
Crispin: That wasn’t an invitation.
Jack: Living in my master’s lodgings has been a godsend. I was out on the streets, wasn’t I? Stealing me food and what baubles I could get. It might be cold in here but it’s a fair sight colder outside. And my master has taught me to read and write. And languages! French, Latin, and Greek, though I falter at the last one. But mostly I am learning the trade of a Tracker. It’s interesting work, using me head instead of me back. Though it involves more dead men than I would like, my master has taught me to walk through the problem and to see past the lie. With God’s grace, we manage to bring justice to the dead and, I don’t mind saying, make a coin or two.
The Silence Of Stones is the 8th book in the Crispin Guest Medieval Mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, February 2016.
LONDON, 1388. When the mythical Stone of Destiny is stolen from the throne of England in Westminster Abbey, Crispin Guest, the Tracker, witnesses the dramatic disappearance for himself. After the disastrous civil strife of the last two years, he knows well that King Richard II now fears that the populace will take it as a sign to side with Richard’s rebellious barons. The king can little afford for his authority to be any more undermined, especially after the English army suffers a crushing defeat against a Scottish uprising. Desperate, Richard turns to Crispin to find the missing Stone. And to ensure that he will do the deed, the king imprisons Jack Tucker and orders Crispin to find the Stone before Parliament convenes in three days’ time – or Jack will hang for treason.
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All comments are welcomed.
Meet the author
Los Angeles native and award-winning author Jeri Westerson writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Mysteries, historical novels, paranormal novels, and LGBT mysteries. To date, her medieval mysteries have garnered twelve industry award nominations, from the Agatha to the Shamus. Kirkus Review said of her latest Crispin Guest Medieval Mystery, “Westerson’s tortured protagonist is never dull, and his newest adventure leads to a swift and satisfying conclusion.”
Jeri is former president of the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America and frequently guest lectures on medieval history at local colleges and museums. See her website JeriWesterson.com for discussion guides, series book trailer, and more.
Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Silence of Stones. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end February 2 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!