A disgraced knight searches for a deadly holy object in medieval England.
Ever since Crispin Guest’s fall from glory when he backed the wrong side of a royal rebellion, he’s earned a living from his sharp wits. His sharp ears help, too, especially when he realizes he’s being followed back to the former poulterer’s shop he calls home. It’s nothing compared to what he owned when he was Sir Crispin, but in the year of grace 1390, the plain dwelling must suddenly play host to his unexpected follower, a woman with a fur collar, long, pointed slippers, and enticing auburn hair. She wants him to find her niece, who she fears has run off with Simon Wynchecombe, the married former Lord Sheriff of London and Crispin’s nemesis. A monk asking for Crispin arrives only to die with a dagger in his back. From his hands falls a strange crystal container flowing with red liquid: a reliquary supposedly containing the blood of Christ. Crispin reports the monk’s murder to the authorities, hires a cross-dressing male prostitute to watch over the lady who asked for his help, and returns the reliquary to the abbey from which it was taken. He learns that another monk is missing and still another has died, all for the holy receptacle. Crispin, no stranger to reliquaries and their inherent dangers (A Maiden Weeping, 2016, etc.), attempts to find a safe place for it and shelter for Wynchecombe, who proclaims his innocence even though his dagger killed Crispin’s visitor. Parking him at the modest home of his landlord, a young lawyer with a great many (presumably hand-lettered, pre-Gutenberg) books, Crispin follows the trail of dead or dying monks and a reliquary that won’t stay put. Then he makes disturbing discoveries about two people he’s come to care about in a crime drama that frustratingly blends careful research with casual anachronisms.
Although more academic-minded readers are likely to frown over Westerson’s hit-or-miss approach to history, fans will welcome her hero’s return in his 10th reliquary adventure.