Series: Justin de Quincy #1
Genres: Historical Mystery
Published by Penguin on 24 April 1997
Reading Challenges: 2013 In Uniform Challenge
When Justin de Quincy discovered that his patron the Bishop of Chester was actually his father, he vowed to have nothing more to do with the man. Justin stumbled across a murder on his way to London. The dying victim, a goldsmith, entrusted a letter to him and begged him to deliver it to Eleanor of Acquitaine. Justin duly delivers the valuable letter and is charged with finding out who had the messenger killed and why.
Justin had every right to be angry with his father who had told him that his mother was a ‘wanton’ creature rather than the fairly innocent girl who was ‘dazzled by a man of God’. His father though did ensure he was well educated, fed, had a roof over his head and gave him a job. Justin probably wouldn’t have survived very long as the Queen’s man if he hadn’t witnessed political manoeuvring and betrayal first hand. Justin is still fairly naive when it comes to women though and two ladies manage to get the upper hand. He initially crosses swords with the local deputy sheriff but the two mend their differences and a great partnership is formed. Their job is made much more difficult as pretty much everybody finds the goldsmith’s death convenient.
Penman clearly knows twelfth century Britain well and the nuances she brings to the political sphere are a delight to read. She takes a few more liberties with the common folk and some anachronisms creep in here and there which is a shame. I am a huge fan of the medieval period so I adored the detail she provided but those who are in the mood for something a bit more quick moving, might be disappointed by the chunks of info. Justin de Quincy does a great job investigating but he is moving at twelfth century speed with twelfth century technology at his disposal. Emphasis therefore is placed on interrogating witnesses and discerning their motives rather than technological wizardry.
I first read this book about fifteen years ago and have re-read it again over the years. It has its faults but it remains a thoroughly engaging historical mystery and one of my favourites.