Geoffrey Chaucer travels to Devon to avert a diplomatic crisis.
The poet and diplomat is called from Savoy Palace, where John of Gaunt is keeping his wife’s sister Katherine Swynford as mistress, to Devon to soothe a shipwrecked Italian captain whose cargo has disappeared from a warehouse. Accompanying him are his friends Alan Audley and Ned Caton, who’s engaged to Alice Storey, daughter of Dartmouth physician Richard Storey. The three barely escape with their lives when they’re set upon by two wild-looking men and a woman who escape to the woods when Storey and his retainers appear. Wealthy Storey’s household, which includes his son Edgar, his new young wife Sara, his ex-mother-in-law and a cousin who’s an herbal expert, is barely more civilized. Getting down to the case, Chaucer finds that though the Italian captain and the mayor of Dartmouth have been accusing each other of the theft, they seem to have settled their differences. But more skullduggery follows. Sara’s dog is poisoned, and an Italian seaman dies. After Sara accuses Edgar and he storms out, her battered body is discovered in the gardens, and he’s found covered in blood. Chaucer must use all his skills to solve the puzzle.
Lacks the fast pace of the poet’s first case (Chaucer and the House of Fame, 2004), but the interesting characters and historical tidbits make it worthwhile.