Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Eve of Saint Hyacinth by Kate Sedley

Roger the Chapman is back on the open road, leaving his six month old daughter with his mother in law. He decides to try his luck in London where the king is gathering his troops to invade France. There should be enough customers for his wares there. Then one night he happens to over hear a conversation he shouldn't have and it is not long before one of the two men he over hears is found dead. Despite his better judgment he stays in London and is swiftly entangled with Timothy Plumber, spy master for Duke Richard of Gloucester. There is a plot to murder the Duke and Roger finds himself engaged to uncover the assassin. Can Roger put his monastic schooling to good use and find out who would want Richard dead and why?

I quite enjoy picking up books in the 'Roger the Chapman' series. They're always a good light read, not too taxing but engaging enough to make you want to read them. I like the character of Roger very much, the fairly easy going, intelligent young man. He has his vices but in the grand scheme of things these are quite insignificant (he claims to be too apt to fall in love but quick to fall out of it for instance). He remains untainted by the intrigues he finds himself caught up in. Innocent but worldly wise at the same time. Its an odd combination but if you read the books you'll see what I mean.

Sedley has no problems conjuring up a believable world for Roger to inhabit. From what little I know of this period I do feel it is fairly accurate and I particularly like the early parts of the book where Roger is drifting around the Hampshire countryside selling his wares. I can very much believe that the women in the far out cottages and settlements might not see a pedlar for months. I also found her description of the sheep washing detailed and yet interesting, something which I don't think I would normally feel about sheep washing in general!

I also like the way in which Sedley is able to be accurate about the mundane as well as the political events of the 15th century. The problems between the Woodville family and the King's brothers is beautifully portrayed (I particularly like the moment when the Duke of Clarence insults the Queen at the banquet). In some ways its hard to believe a simple Chapman would be aware of the politics surrounding the war with France but his background in the church before he quit for a life on the road it seems possible he would know such things. Also being on the road he's apt to pick up gossip all over the country.

I did enjoy this book but it was 'ok' rather than something I would necessarily recommend to all my friends. It was good, but a bit gentle perhaps for some tastes. This particular installment was still accessible for those who have not read any of the series so far and is in fact a good introduction to Roger's character. So anyone who does fancy a
non-too-taxing medieval murder mystery to read then I would recommend this one.

*3 stars*

If you enjoyed this book you might also enjoy
*The Poisoned Chalice by Bernard Knight

Other books by Kate Sedley
*For King and Country

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