Anything that says “medieval” immediately catches my attention. So when I saw a local author had written a novel classified as “Medieval Noir,” I was instantly interested. Then my second thought was to wonder what “Medieval Noir” was. As it turns out, Ms. Westerson has created her own little sub-genre of medieval mystery, something she describes as “darker, edgier, with hard-hitting action and characters with dirty little secrets.”
“Veil of Lies” is the first Ms. Westerson’s books relating the adventures of Crispin Guest, a down-on-his-luck, former knight turned detective in medieval London. The books opens with Crispin Guest already ostracized from the noble classes after convicted of treason against the king. Lucky to escape with his life, Crispin is left on the streets with nothing but the clothes on his back. In order to earn enough money to buy food, he hires himself out as a detective of sorts to those willing and able to pay.
The main plot in “Veil of Lies” centers around a case that Crispin reluctantly agrees to take, a husband looking to verify the fidelity or infidelity of his wife. When he discovers that there is indeed something up with the man’s wife, he returns to report his findings, only to find his client murdered. But this is not just any murder, but a murder committed inside a sealed room, locked from the inside. And thus begins a tale steeped in mystery.
I admit I don’t read a lot of mysteries, so it was fun to change gears for a bit and read a mystery with the added bonus of a medieval twist. Furthermore, I found “Veil of Lies” to be extremely well written. Ms. Westerson obviously researched her time period thoroughly. All the little details were spot on, from the food people ate to the carriages they rode in. I could almost feel the mud in the streets in the poorer parts of the city as well as the cold mist of London fog.
Throughout the book, I found the plot twisting this way and that, which kept me delightfully guessing until the end. If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
(For parents with smaller kids, this is not YA but an adult book, primarily due to a couple of scenes with mild sensuality that was, nonetheless, tastefully written.)
The “Veil of Lies” hardcover was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in November 2008. Veil of Lies comes out in paperback October. Details here. The sequel, “Serpent in the Thorns” will be released in September 2009.