Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a “medieval noir,” but I do have a fondness for historical mysteries and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Now I know little to nothing about London in 1384, so I’m not going to comment on the historical accuracy. I will say that the setting felt real to me, was an integral part of the story. London is a dark, grimy, dangerous place, if you’re not one of the upper class.

And Crispin Guest is no longer one of the privileged few. He used to be a knight, but accused of treason he was stripped up everything and only saved from being killed by an old friend. Now, Crispin known as The Tracker, down on his luck and making whatever money he can by finding things for those willing to pay for his services. He is hired by a wealthy merchant for a job that should be quick and simple, find out if the merchant’s wife is cheating on him. But then the merchant is found killed, and Crispin is embroiled in a mystery involving murder, embezzlement, international intrigue and a religious relic, the Veronica.

The Manyllon. “Vera icona. True Image,” he snorted. If there was one thing he couldn’t afford to know, it was hi true nature. No now. “What are you?” he asked. his voice echoes softly in teh dimming cell. “Is this truly the image of God?”

He ran his rough fingertips over the image, feeling nothing different in its texture. “If this is what everyone thinks it is, that what would you have me do with it?” He raised his face to heaven, but all he saw were dusty, wooden rafters. He looked back at the fire. “I would rather burn this than have it fall into the hands of the king— or any other villain.” (pg. 225)

Crispin is the sexy detective, but with a medieval outlook. He’s the character the book revolves around and I like that he’s doing his best. He’s far from perfect, but he has his moral code and is true to it. He follows clues and hunches, faces threats to his life, and like all good private investigators has a soft spot for the damsel in distress, the woman who he knows can lead to trouble but falls for nonetheless. And of course although he has to cooperate with the Sheriff he does not respect him in the least. Crispin has to work and live among the lower classes, but in his mind he still feels like he is above them, an attitude he is at times ashamed of but can’t alter. He’s a tough guy, more than able to hold his own in a fight. I liked him. I’ll grant you that sometimes he could be a little too brooding, but that’s not a trait that bothered me.

It feels like a fairly standard mystery, but it was well-done with plenty of twists and turns to keep the story moving.  For me, though, the plot was really secondary to the character of Crispin and the late 14-century setting. Those are what really set the book apart for me.

Published October 28, 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur
Crispin Guest #1
280 pages

Challenges: 100+, A to Z, Thriller and Suspense

My copy was borrowed from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.