A Crowner John medieval mystery set in 12th century Devon, England When Crowner John is summoned to the bleak Devonshire moors to investigate the murder of a tin miner, he has little idea how difficult this new investigation will prove to be. The victim is a trusted and well-loved overman of Devon's most powerful and successful mine owner, Walter Knapman. There seems to be only one possible motive - to sabotage Walter's business. But the tinners have their own laws, and they are none too pleased at Crowner John's interference. Especially as their main experience of officials has been with Sheriff Richard de Revelle, whose notoriously high taxes keep them in a permanent state of fury and near rebellion. And then Walter disappears. Stephen Acland, Walter's business rival wastes no time in comforting Walter's beautiful wife Joan, who appears remarkably unmoved by her husband's disappearance. Meanwhile, Walter's brother is going frantic with worry ...or could it be guilt? A decapitated body, a missing tinner, a disgruntled band of miners and a mad Saxon, intent on the destruction of all things Norman. How on earth can Crowner John sort all this out when his wife hates him, his mistress has spurned him for a younger man, and his clerk is in the grip of a suicidal depression? Only Gwyn, Crowner John's indispensable right-hand man seems to be of any help at all, until he is arrested for murder and put on trial for his life.
Much of the county lies under the iron rule of the Royal Forest laws, with all hunting reserved to the King. The penalty for killing a deer is mutilation or death, and these harsh laws are rigorously upheld by the King's foresters, notorious for their greed and corruption. In June 1195, a horse gallops into the sleepy village of Sigford, the broken shaft of an arrow protruding from its rider's back. The embroidered badge sewn on the dead man's tunic identifies him as a senior officer of the Royal Forest. With the victim's purse still full of money, the motive for murder is a mystery. But when a second forest officer is violently attacked, county coroner Sir John de Wolfe begins to uncover evidence of a sinister conspiracy.
It is 1195, and when a wealthy mill-owner falls dead across his horse, Sir John de Wolfe, the county coroner, declines to hold an inquest. The man was considerably overweight, had been complaining of chest pains, and showed no signs of injury. A clear-cut case of death from natural causes. But events take a sinister turn when a straw doll is discovered hidden beneath the man’s saddlebag, a thin metal spike piercing its heart. Convinced that her husband’s death was caused by an evil spell, the victim’s strident widow begins a campaign against witchcraft and the so-called “cunning women” who practice it. Soon Exeter is in turmoil, a hysterical mob is on the loose, and several local women are in danger. Still, the coroner declines to get involved—until his own mistress falls under suspicion. Can Crowner John discover the real cause of the merchant’s death, unearth the culprit, and save his beloved Nesta from the hangman’s noose?
This book is for all readers of crime fiction. Dividing Britain and Ireland into thirteen regions, the author describes the work of contemporary and historic crime writers and their novels where the setting of the novel is crucial, giving the story context and local relevance.
Exeter, 1195. During renovations at the new school in Smythen Street, funded by Crowner John's brother-in-law Richard de Revelle, a semi-skeletalized body is found in the loft of an outhouse. The coroner is called in to investigate. When the dead man is identified as the missing treasurer of the guild of Cordwainers, de Revelle immediately puts the blame on a young outlaw—a Cornish knight named Nicholas de Arundell—whose Devon manor de Revelle had illegally appropriated while Arundell was away at the Crusades. The ex-sheriff claims the body was dumped there to discredit his new school. The investigation takes on greater urgency when another guild-master is found dead on the road from Tavistock to Exeter. Is Nicholas de Arundell, the "noble outlaw," really responsible? Or could there be another culprit entirely?