Who shall be king, Richard Coeur de Lion or his brother John?
Sir John de Wolfe, appointed Crowner (coroner) just four months before, is positively relieved to be called from the Christmas Eve banquet over which his nagging, social-climbing wife presides to examine the body of mild-manned canon Robert de Hane. Someone has tried to disguise the poor cleric’s garroting as suicide by hanging. Ably assisted by his muscular squire Gwyn and his physically misshapen clerk Thomas, Sir John runs afoul of his greedy brother-in-law, Sir Richard de Revelle, who despite the evidence wants a verdict of suicide. Taking a break from his wife’s nagging and his brother-in-law’s obstructionism, Sir John dallies with friendly alehouse owner Nesta while Thomas, who can read and write, studies the vellum in de Hane’s possession and uncovers a map leading to treasure buried a hundred years before. Meanwhile, Sir William Fitzhamon, loyal to the Lion, is murdered by men plotting to unseat the king in favor of his brother. Richard, off in Normandy waging war against the French and brutally taxing the English to pay for it, is too busy to care, but not Sir John, who survives family infighting, a rape charge, incarceration, and a duel to quash the rebellion and solve the murders.
Gleefully renders daily life, circa 1194, from flea bites to lice to pork-and-ale breakfasts. Like The Sanctuary Seeker (2003), this provides a map, a glossary, and a thorough dissection of medieval politics.