Exeter, 1195. When a prominent burgess and guild-master falls dead across his horse, Crowner John declines to hold an inquest as the man had been complaining of chest pains and shows no signs of injury.
Events take a sinister turn, however, when a straw-dolly is discovered hidden under the man's saddle, a spike driven through its heart.
Enlisting the help of her cousin, a cathedral canon with an eye to ecclesiastical advancement, the victim's strident widow begins a campaign in the name of the Church against witchcraft and the so-called 'cunning women' who practise it.
This escalates until Exeter is divided into two camps and a climate of fear predominates.
Still the coroner refuses to get involved - until his beloved mistress is accused of witchcraft.
Can Crowner John unearth the real culprit and save Nesta from the hangman's noose?
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication Date: 05/04/2004
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780743449892
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by juglicerr
A general review of this series:This is back in the good old days of law enforcement, when trial by combat was definitive and would-be plea bargainers had to fight their accomplice(s) to the death.I find these books fascinating as living history, perhaps even more than as mysteries. Knight always starts off with a glossary of terms. The period is not romanticized, but neither is it overly repulsive. Sir John de Wolfe went crusading with Richard the Lionheart. Now back in England, he has been appointed to the newly reconstituted office of Crowner (Coroner). He fights a pitched battle with his corrupt, treacherous brother-in-law, the Sheriff, over official territory. He is very unhappily married to Mathilda, his incompatible wife; their relationship makes sleeping in peasant huts while on duty a treat. One of the things that makes it interesting, is that although Sir John is the central character, and presumably to be regarded with sympathy, his marital problems are not entirely blamed upon his wife.John is assisted in his duties by his gigantic man of arms, and his clerk, a frail, defrocked priest.In this book, a sudden death is considered natural by Sir John, but the widow is convinced that it is the result of witchcraft. An amoral apothecary, eager to put herbal healers out of the competition, joins with her to whip up public controversy. There are signs of an attempted curse, but does a true Christian believe that things really are possible?
Review by Moriquen
It took me a long time to get into the story, but perhaps this was more due to me trying to read it in a very busy period then due to the book itself. I'm not entirely sure. I liked the ending and I am tempted to try another book in the Crowner John series, just to see wether or not it was my lack of concentration that made me dislike the beginning.