Sunday, October 29, 2006

The poisoned chalice by Bernard Knight

Yes I'm back again :) Hopefully for a while, so stick around for some more book reviews :) Remember these reviews *may* contain spoilers! Please feel to add comments of you own to any of these book reviews

The poisoned chalice is the second book in the John Crowner series by Bernard Knight. Set in 12th century Devon the series follows the life of John Crowner, recently appointed Coroner of Devon and staunch supporter of the absent King Richard. The this installment John has to deal with the rape of the daughter of one of the prominent citizens of Exeter. Not long after another well-to-do lady of the town is found dead in a churchyard thanks to an illegal abortion. Just who is guilty of these crimes and those that follow? Meanwhile John has to wrangle with his brother-in-law, the local sheriff, over what comes under the coroner's jurisdiction. Nothing seems to be straightforward!

This book is a welcome break from some of the later politics heavy books in the series. Although there are some undertones of the political situation within which the books are set, the book doesn't feel like a constant battle between the supporters of the king and the supporters of Prince John. As always Bernard Knight manages to paint an accurate and down to earth view of 12th century life. The rich are rich, but the poor are poor. People have real problems (pregnancy, unhappy marriages, rape etc) many of which do translate into the modern world. It deals with the after effects of rape, which you don't necessarily see when its covered in modern cop dramas. It shows how those around the victim can also be affected (in this case her fiancee).

On the whole the book is well written and I didn't feel bored at any point. It wasn't a book that I couldn't put down necessarily but I did want to learn what happened, whodunnit :) I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical murder mysteries or indeed murder mysteries as a whole. John Crowner is not perfect and does suffer from time to time. Unlike some modern dectectives whose personal lives are a complete and utter shamble, you do find yourself feeling life isn't all too bad for him. It's certainly not a thoroughly depressing kind of detective story!

3 stars

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