Since becoming “The Tracker,” an investigator for hire in fourteenth century London, Crispin Guest has solved twelve years’ worth of murders. Yet when he finds himself trapped in circumstances outside his control, he must rely on the loyalty and cleverness of his wily young apprentice Jack Tucker to do the rescuing.
Crispin Guest awakens in a strange bed after a night of passion and finds a woman dead, murdered. Drunk, Crispin scarcely remembers the night before. Did he kill her? But when other young women turn up dead under similar circumstances, he knows there is a deadly stalker loose in London. Could it have to do with the mysterious Tears of the Virgin Mary kept under lock and key by a close-lipped widow, a relic that a rival family would kill to get their hands on? With Crispin shackled and imprisoned by the immutable sheriffs, his apprentice Jack Tucker takes over the job of his master as the “Tracker,” and joins forces with a fresh young lawyer to solve the crime before Crispin hangs for murder.
Cast of Characters
Crispin Guest, the Tracker*
Jack Tucker, his apprentice*
Elizabeth le Porter, a servant*
Lady Helewise Peverel, widow*
Abbot William de Colchester, abbot of Westminster Abbey
Brother John Sandon, a monk, the abbot’s assistant
Brother Thomas Merke, a monk, the abbot’s assistant
Brother Eric, a monk*
Thomas Clarke, manciple*
Nigellus Cobmartin, a lawyer*
John Charneye, Coroner
Jon Tremayne, Recorder of London
William Noreys, a merchant*
Madlyn Noreys, his wife*
Walter Noreys, his son*
John Noreys, his son*
Hugh Buckton, eel Monger*
Leonard Munch, “Lenny”, thief*
Regis Croydone, roper*
Alison Keylmarsh, widow, chandler*
Avice Weedon, whore*
Richard Gernon, alderman*
Thomas Tateham, merchant*
Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby and son of the duke of Lancaster
John Rykener, an old friend of Crispin’s
John Louvney, sheriff of London
John Walcote, sheriff of London
Tom Merton, sheriff’s serjeant *
Wendell Smythe, sheriff’s serjeant*
Hamo Eckington, the sheriff’s clerk*
Gilbert Langton, proprietor of the Boar’s Tusk*
Eleanor Langton, his wife*
Isabel Langton, their niece*
Ned, their servant*
Martin Kemp, a tinker and Crispin’s landlord*
Alice Kemp, his wife*
*denotes fictional people
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What were Crispin’s options and why did he not chose another?
2. Medieval law was different from the rules of the court today. How did that affect Crispin’s course of action?
3. Should Jack have done anything differently?
4. What is your opinion of Isabel?
5. How about Gyb?
6. Will Crispin ever learn?
7. Crispin feels a little lost without Jack. Discuss how their relationship has shaped both of them.
8. Discuss the relic in this book.
9. Nigellus Cobmartin might very well become a reoccurring character in the Crispin saga. What is your opinion of the young lawyer?
10. How do you feel about the tinker shop and change of location? Was it akin to a character?
The format for this book was to be a little different from the others in the series. Because this deals specifically with a medieval courtroom, I intended to intersperse the chapters with the real coroner’s records of trials. Medieval records did not keep transcripts of the trials as we do today, just a summary of events. Some are petitions in close rolls and some are from the coroner’s rolls of that particular year. Originally, most of these were in Latin and the archivists in the British Heritage Archives translated them. I would have liked them to stay in the novel but they are no longer in the book as they were deemed unnecessary, and so I share a few samples with you here:
Monday, the morrow of St. Mark Evangelist (25 April) the same Tower year, information given to the aforesaid Coroner and Sheriffs that Baldewyn Laap of ‘ Cagent ’ lay dead of a death other than his rightful death in Thames Street, in the parish of St. Dunstan near the Tower. Thereupon they proceeded thither, and, having summoned good men of that Ward, they diligently enquired how it happened. The jurors — viz: Adam Hurel, Edmund de Saunford, John de Salop, Alan Wolf, John Albon, Adam Pessok, Robert le Coupere, Richard le Chaundeler, Robert Horn, Thomas de Kelshulle, Henry Cros, Geoffrey de Wyntertone and Laurence de Braughyng — say that on the preceding Sunday, at the hour of Vespers, Arnold, son of John de Lescluse, struck the aforesaid Baldewyn with a knife called a ‘ thwytel ’ in Thames Street inflicting two mortal wounds on the belly near the navel, so that he fell to the ground and immediately died. The felon fled into the church of St. Dunstan and confessed his crime before the Coroner and Sheriffs. His chattels comprised the sum of 30 shillings in cash, found upon him in the said church, a gown and hood worth 6 pence, six small hams worth 6 shillings, two florins found upon him worth 6 pence. On the same Monday, the morrow of St. Mark, the above Arnold confessed before John de Shirbourne, the Coroner, and William de Pontefract, one of the Sheriffs, in the said church of St. Dunstan that he had feloniously killed the above Baldewyn, but refused to surrender to the peace. Afterwards, he escaped by night.
—Calendar of City Coroners Rolls, c.1300
Leonard Malore, who was indicted in Norfolk for the murder of Edmund Clipsby in the 16th year of Richard II’s reign (1392-3), for which he received Richard II’s charter of pardon, requests a writ to cause the said indictment and pardon to come into the King’s Bench, because he dares not return to Norfolk for fear of his life.
—Calendar of Close Rolls
William de Culwen states that there are errors in the record, process and promulgation of the outlawry pronounced against him for the death of John de Louthre, at the suit of John’s brother Robert, before John de Cavendissh and his companions, justices of King’s Bench, and he requests that the record, process and outlawry be brought into the present parliament, and that Robert and the chief lords of whom William holds his lands and tenements, if there are any, between the death of John and the present, might be warned to come to the same parliament, and that the record, process and outlawry might be examined and corrected there, and justice further done to him.
—Enrolled on the roll of the parliament 17 Richard II (1394)
The Warden and college of the free chapel in Windsor Castle state that Thomas Prestewyk has been excommunicated at their suit, for withholding tithes with which they have been endowed; and that because of this a canon and certain vicars and others who are well-disposed towards the chapel in this dispute have been wrongly indicted through maintenance, and the indictments have been heard in secret so as to have them imprisoned, with the intention of depriving the chapel and its chaplains of their rights. They ask the King to order the Chancellor to issue writs to have any indictments touching the chaplains, any of them, or their well-wishers, brought before the King in his Bench, so that these indicted people might be delivered by law, without obstruction from their adversaries. Nature of endorsement: The King wishes that a letter be sent to have the indictments brought to his Bench, so that his justices and others of his council can ordain for justice to be done to the said petitioners, and so that the Dean and chaplains are not wrongly oppressed in this way in future. T. Percy.
Sibyl de Hanewode states that Andrew ethe Lane, under-sheriff of Shropshire, by procurement of John de Leybourn, had her falsely indicted of felony in his tourn, and that because of this wrongdoing the Chancellor granted her a writ to the sheriff to have the indictment brought before the King. She has had three or four writs but he has done nothing. She requests a remedy.
—Calendar of Close Rolls c. 1320