Jul 3, 2009

Book Review: "Crowner Royal" by Bernard Knight

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Pub. Date: June 2009
ISBN-13: 9781847372970
368pp
Series: Crowner John Mysteries
The Burton Review Rating: 3 stars

The blurb: "It is April 1196. At the command of King Richard and his Chief Justiciar Hubert Walter, county coroner Sir John de Wolfe—along with his officer Gwyn of Polruan and clerk Thomas de Peyne—has left Exeter for London where he is to become the first Coroner of the Verge. Thrust into the intrigues of the closed world of the Royal Court, John quickly finds himself embroiled in a case of theft, blackmail, espionage, and murder."


This is the thirteenth novel in the Crowner John series, where a medieval detective gets the nasty job of determining the various whodunit's that all seem to happen at the same time. This one has a little bit of everything in it, from the main character brooding about women troubles to him avidly supporting his absent King. There are bodies floating in rivers, lying face down in marshes, missing suspects, and the very important English treasure trove has been looted as well.


Before one mystery even gets close to solving another one occurs.. I was getting a little aggravated at the lack of expertise on the "coroner's" part. Crowner John was just recently awarded the post of "Coroner on the Verge" where he is in charge of all investigations that occur within the 12 mile radius of the Royal Palace of Westminster. Even that comes into question, where John needs to fight for his right to investigate the second murder. There was a lot of eating, in the Hall or in his rooms with the fare always being described in detail. The author takes a lot of time to create the atmosphere with his back story of the palace and the politics of the times.

I was not overly fond of the characterization of John: he was gruff, moody, facetious. His two sidekicks were not quite as rough as John but added a bit of human to the story. They clearly wanted to be back in their homes in Exeter and not in London. I enjoyed the mini history lessons and facts that were inserted throughout the mystery story line, but I did find the solving the actual mysteries a bit long winded due to the repeated discussion of the times. The medieval era is certainly something the author has a lot of knowledge of, I would have preferred a bit more drama for the present as well as the history. Once we got to the last quarter of the book, things started occurring and advancement in unraveling the conspiracies was being made, which were quite comical in some parts.

When we are not learning about the dark and musty residences, we are treated to John's apparent acute sex appeal, as the wife of a noble immediately sets him in her sights and blatantly makes passes at him during the aforementioned meals. John is portrayed as a man with an appetite for women and several times is caught commiserating about the wife he left behind in a nunnery. Yup. Seems I missed something in the previous novels, but despite John's attractiveness his wife has put herself in exile to be far from him and is now Sister Matilda. What's a man to do? He entertains an old girlfriend and of course has no qualms about bedding the married woman who bats her eyelashes. (OK, he does ponder his issues a few times.) Wait.. is this a conspiracy amongst the knights or the priests? The Old Queen Eleanor is on her way.. Her son Prince John does not have a good reputation yet some are talking behind closed doors about supporting him instead of his brother King Richard..Can John find the missing treasure trove pieces before she arrives, and can he find out who is behind all the dead bodies surrounding him?

An interesting medieval mystery, and recommended for those who enjoy slow developing mysteries with interesting twists. Find it at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Crowner Royal will be released on August 06, 2009 in Trade Paperback;
Crowner Royal released on April 06, 2009 in Hardcover in the UK.