The author of the acclaimed medieval mystery A Burnable Book once again brings fourteenth-century London alive in all its color and detail in this riveting thriller featuring medieval poet and fixer John Gower—a twisty tale rife with intrigue, danger mystery, and murder.
Though he is one of England’s most acclaimed intellectuals, John Gower is no stranger to London’s wretched slums and dark corners, and he knows how to trade on the secrets of the kingdom’s most powerful men. When the bodies of sixteen unknown men are found in a privy, the Sheriff of London seeks Gower’s help. The men’s wounds—ragged holes created by an unknown object—are unlike anything the sheriff’s men have ever seen. Tossed into the sewer, the bodies were meant to be found. Gower believes the men may have been used in an experiment—a test for a fearsome new war weapon his informants call the “handgonne,” claiming it will be the “future of death” if its design can be perfected.
Propelled by questions of his own, Gower turns to courtier and civil servant Geoffrey Chaucer, who is working on some poems about pilgrims that Gower finds rather vulgar. Chaucer thinks he just may know who commissioned this new weapon, an extremely valuable piece of information that some will pay a high price for—and others will kill to conceal. . .
The invention of handguns presages a radical change in warfare in Holsinger's skillful and engrossing second medieval whodunit (after 2014's A Burnable Book). In London in 1386, the bodies of 16 unidentified men, who have been slaughtered in some unknown fashion, are found in a public privy. Poet John Gower, a colleague of Geoffrey Chaucer, is asked to look into the deaths by Ralph Strode, an old friend who was once a criminal court judge. Strode warns him that not everyone is eager for a solution. Nicholas Brembre, "perhaps the most powerful mayor in London's history," is reported to have destroyed evidence and threatens anyone who even mentions the massacre. Strode correctly predicts that Gower's "devotion to the right way" will move him to seek the truth, a challenge made even greater by the investigator's fears that he's going blind. Holsinger is equally adept at depicting the machinations of the rich and powerful and the fears and hopes of the working class, "desperate to hold on to their small scraps of ground in the face of the great events unfolding around them."