Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Spiteful Bones by Jeri Westerson

First Sentence:  Nigellus Cobmartin stood in the courtyard of his family home – its garden walls crumbling, its arched windows overlooking the tired and weedy garden with its dead flowers and gnarled trees – and sighed.

Crispin Guest's house is filled with his assistant Jack, his wife Isabel, and their many children, as well as the satisfaction of watching grow and providing training for Christopher Walcote, the son he can never acknowledge.  Into that tranquility comes John Rykener/Eleanor Cobmartin with an urgent summons.  In restoring the home he inherited, John's "husband's" workers uncover a body holding a precious relic. The body had been bound and sealed within a wall for 20 years.  It is up to Crispin to discover the killer while protecting the secret of John's true identity.

One can only appreciate when authors, particularly of historical mysteries, provide a section of "Notes About Characters," as well as a "Glossary."  The sections are not only helpful but interesting in themselves.

No one stays the same age forever.  Having characters who age, and whose life circumstances change, adds realism to the story, and much has changed for Westerson's characters.  Readers of the series will appreciate that, but even new readers are given a sense of how time has progressed.

Westerson has a wonderful voice.  Her dialogue is reflective of the period without being mired in it.  She writes with a balance of humor and drama.  It is interesting to see how, even in this period, forensic evidence was taken into account—"But it looks as if someone coshed him good.  Aye, look at the wood of the uprights here.  If he was still awake, there would have been scratches and scuffs from a struggle."  One issue, however, is the frequent use of Latin phrases.  While is it very appropriate to the period, an immediate translation of each phrase, as is often done by other authors, would not have been amiss.  Still, there are lines which make one smile—"Sometimes, Jack, the Church, in all its wisdom, is lacking when it comes to compassion."

The relationships are enjoyable and add dimension yet don't overtake the plot.  They provide richness and emotion.  One becomes attached to the characters. There are times where one might question whether Crispin is too modern; too good, too noble.  Yet, it is part of the development one has seen in the character and is part of what draws one back to the series.

"Spiteful Bones" presents an effective twist and an exciting climax.  Historical mystery devotees will be pleased.

SPITEFUL BONES (Hist Mys-Crispen Guest-London-1398) – G+
Westerson, Jeri – 14th in series
Severn House – Sept 2020


  1. That plot point of a secret identity can be really effective. And it sounds as though there's a real sense of time and place in this one. I'm glad of that, as historical novels are best when they draw the reader into the time period.

    1. Jeri is very good with historical details, and bringing the reader into the setting. I've always enjoyed this series.