Roger the Chapman, medieval peddler and meddler, is used to having his former mother-in-law pay him no mind, but when his wife also thinks he’s hallucinating, he must prove he’s telling the truth.
Roger takes shelter from a sudden storm in a house abandoned for the 50 years since a wife and daughter killed their brutal husband and father. Imagine his shock when he finds it occupied by people who first try to kill him and then kill the captain of an Irish slaver. After the concussed Chapman is fished from the river and returned to his wife and children, he tells his story to his unbelieving womenfolk and Sergeant Richard Manifold, Sheriff’s Officer. Roger’s investigations send him to the crypt of St. Giles Church, built over an old synagogue, and big enough to provide storage for the entire village and a trysting place for Luke Prettywood and Marianne Avenel, wife of locally prominent Robin Avenel. He also calls on hunchbacked apothecary Silas Witherspoon, who sells unusual hand-sewn sheaths to prevent conception. Timothy Plummer, Spymaster General for King Edward, keeps dogging Roger’s footsteps in various disguises. When Robin Avenel is killed and Roger’s former friend, Burl Hodge, framed for the murder, Roger untangles royal and domestic intrigue to clear Burl as well as his own reputation.
Solid work for the stolid Chapman (The Lammas Feast, 2002, etc.) in a nicely drawn portrait of domestic life in medieval Bristol.