London, 1392. Strange mischief is afoot at St Modwen’s Church. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night, disturbing graves, and dragging coffins? When a fearful Father Bulthius begs Crispin Guest for his help, he agrees to investigate with his apprentice, Jack Tucker, intrigued by the horrific tales.
Meanwhile, an urgent summons arrives from Crispin’s former love, Philippa Walcote. Her seven-year-old son, Christopher, has been accused of murder and of attempting to steal a family relic – the missing relic of St Modwen. Who is behind the gruesome occurrences in the graveyard? Is Christopher guilty of murder?
Crispin faces a desperate race against time to solve the strange goings-on at St Modwen’s and prove a child’s innocence.
I enjoyed this book more than some of the previous Crispin Guest novels for a few reasons. First, I feel there was more character development and depth to the characters, many of whom can often be quite shallow. I especially liked Isabel, Jack Tucker’s new wife who is going to feature in some of the future stories as well.
She does fulfill a lot of traditional roles that would be expected of a 14th century women, but she’s also fiercely intelligent and empathetic. She and Jack have now come to provide a lot of the grounding for Crispin, and the process of Jack coming into his own throughout the series has proved worthwhile in the conclusion of this book.
The discussions about life, death and ageing were worked into the story well, giving it some depth without becoming too morose. The central mystery had plenty of twists and turns but I felt it was drawn out a bit too long. It could have been resolved more quickly and easily if Crispin had put a little more effort in: and honestly, if he had not been so obsessed with old flame Philippa Walcote.
She makes a comeback in this story, along with new character who proves significant but I do feel her and Crispin’s behaviour kind of sours the taste of this novel. It certainly was not consistent with Crispin’s supposed code of honour, and whilst they did not go all the way I still felt they both needed a damn good slap.
Crispin had his chance with her and had no place romancing another man’s wife, and she should have known better than to encourage, if not openly throw herself at him. It’s not as if her husband was a rotter or abusive. He’s a good man who she has put in a situation that should not be inflicted on anyone, and her preparedness to cheat on him (even if it did not actually reach that point, it was no for want of trying on her part), was not cool.
It is good that Crispin might finally have a sort of adoptive family to fit into, though.
Thanks to the publisher for approving me for this title. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own.