After an ill-considered action one night in London, disgraced knight Crispin Guest heeds the summons of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has specifically requested Guest’s presence. The archbishop has received letters threatening violence against the bones of saint and martyr Thomas a Beckett, the greatest treasure on display in the cathedral in Canterbury. Guest, who has been living by his wits since being stripped of his honor, his title, and his lands, has earned a reputation for solving seemingly impossible puzzles and finding lost objects. Known to many as “The Tracker”, it’s now Guest’s job to protect the relics of the saint and discover whoever is out to destroy them.
With his young apprentice Jack Tucker in tow, Guest arrives in Canterbury and is immediately accosted by an old acquaintance from court – one Geoffrey Chaucer –surrounded by a group of pilgrims lately come from London. Trapped amongst the travelers (who were, quite possibly, the model for Chaucer’s famous story cycle, The Canterbury Tales), time is running out for Crispin to discover a hidden heretic and a killer before his friend Chaucer is hanged for the murders in the cathedral.
A Word About The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer began writing his famous story around 1387. Unfortunately, he died before finishing it. How many pilgrims were on that original journy? Chaucer’s persona says that there are “Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye” (General Prologue, line 24), but there are actually thirty-four people on the journey to Canterbury. Each person represents an aspect of personality or vice and their characters tell a tale almost as much as their stories do. I really hate that he never got a chance to finish it. It does say something for the power of his words and characterizations if the story could be so compelling even unfinished. Who would have won the prize of a free meal at Harry Bailey’s inn? I guess you get to decide.
The pilgrims in bold tell a tale.
1. The Knight
2. The Squire
3. The Yeoman
4. The Prioress
5. The Second Nun
6. The Nun’s Priest
7. a second priest
8. a third priest
9. The Monk
10. The Friar
11. The Merchant
12. The Clerk
13. The Man of Law
14. The Franklin
15. a haberdasher
16. a carpenter
17. a weaver
18. a dyer
19. an arras-maker
20. The Cook
21. The Shipman
22. The Physician
23. The Wife of Bath
24. The Parson
25. The Plowman
26. The Miller
27. The Manciple
28. The Reeve
29. The Summoner
30. The Pardoner
31. The Host
32. Chaucer’s persona (tells two tales)
33. The Canon (who runs away)
34. The Canon’s Yeoman
BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE
Cast of Characters
Crispin Guest, the Tracker*
Jack Tucker, his apprentice*
Geoffrey Chaucer, knight, poet, old friend to Crispin
William de Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury
Father Gelfridus le Britton, pilgrim, the Nun’s Priest*
Sir Philip Bonefey, pilgrim, wealthy Franklin*
Harry Bailey, pilgrim, owner of the tavern the Tabard Inn in London
Prioress Eglantine de Mooreville, pilgrim, Prioress*
Dame Marguerite de Barham, her Chaplain*
Alyson de Guernsey, pilgrim, widow from Bath*
Peter Chaunticleer, pilgrim, a Pardoner*
Rafe Maufesor, pilgrim, a Summoner*
Brother Wilfrid, a monk of Canterbury*
Dom Martin, a monk of Canterbury*
Dom Thomas Chillenden, monk and church treasurer
Thomas Clarke, pilgrim, a Manciple*
Master Turpin, a tailor*
Edwin Gough, pilgrim, a Miller*
Brother Arthur, a monk of Canterbury*
Father Cyril, a monk of Canterbury*
Edward Harper, a pensioner at the monastery*
Thomas Brokhull, sheriff of county Kent
*denotes fictional people
Questions for Discussion
1. Each book in the Crispin Guest series has its own themes. Veil of Lies dealt with deception. Serpent in the Thorns had a theme of kingship (Crown of Thorns, a king’s assassination attempt, the sisters lived at the King’s Head Inn). The Demon’s Parchment dealt with alienation and prejudice. What sorts of themes run through Troubled Bones?
2. What are Chaucer’s motivations for his actions?
3. Crispin’s relationship with Chaucer brings back painful memories. What did you like or dislike about their interaction?
4. The Wife of Bath is rendered much as she is found in the Canterbury Tales. Why does Crispin gravitate toward her?
5. The archbishop of Canterbury calls for an ecclesiastical trial but why is this not allowed? What are his motivations?
6. Jack Tucker gets his own chapters in this novel. Was that a good thing for you as a reader, or was it distracting to the flow of the narrative? How do you feel when authors try different angles like this in their writing?
7. For this venture, Crispin travels to Canterbury, but most of the action happens in the cathedral. Discuss this setting.
8. Jack is growing up but he is also growing closer to Crispin and Crispin to him. How do you feel about this relationship?
9. Crispin is understandably angry with Lancaster. Should he continue to hold a grudge?
10. In the end, Crispin decides to wear his ancestral signet ring again. Did you expect him to give one of them to Jack? Why didn’t he?