Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Veil of Lies"

Jeri Westerson is a journalist, first time novelist, and noted blogger on things mysterious and medieval.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Veil of Lies, and reported the following:
So here I am doing the page 69 test, and I see on said page of Veil of Lies, a variety of things.

First off, it's probably a good idea to tell you a little about Veil of Lies. It has a subtitle: A Medieval Noir. Enigmatic? I hope so. Veil of Lies is a medieval mystery, but features a hard-boiled detective. This gives it a unique spin, making it a little darker and edgier than your average medieval mystery. My protagonist, Crispin Guest, is a disgraced and down-on-his-luck knight turned detective on the mean streets of 14th century London, who's hired by a wealthy and reclusive merchant to spy on his wife whom he suspects of infidelity. When Crispin witnesses her tryst and reports back to the merchant, he makes the unpleasant discovery of the merchant's murder in a locked room, throwing Crispin into involvement in murder, international intrigue, a beautiful femme fatale, and a mysterious religious relic at the heart of these crimes.

On page 69, we can see the cunning Crispin at work, as well as his cutpurse cum servant, Jack Tucker, an eleven-year-old waif who has insinuated himself into Crispin's life. Crispin asks Jack to borrow the merchant's bookkeeping ledgers, even as the dead merchant is lying in state in the same room. Crispin is puzzled by the locked room scenario: how the man could have been murdered inside the room when the window showed no signs of entry. The wheels in his acute mind begin to turn and he starts to investigate the possibilities.

It's difficult to determine if someone would be intrigued enough by the exchange on this one page to read on. One would hope so. It offers a sense of the time period, giving little snippets of details that Crispin sees around him, details that do not surprise a man of his time. But it also offers a sliver of insight into both main characters' deportment, how they think and react to a given situation.

A sample:

...He moved past an alcove and found a door. He knocked first, but without waiting for a reply, tried to open it. Locked. He glanced back at Jack, wondering if he should send him to get a key when he decided not to waste the time. He unbuttoned his coat and he crouched and used his dagger and the sharp aiglet of his shirt's lace to pick the lock. It snapped opened and Jack, straining to watch from his post by the solar, smiled.

It's a good example of their relationship, something like father and son, mentor and protégé that is central to Crispin's having been thrust into this predicament of losing his place in society in the first place: his own mentor/protégé relationship with the duke of Lancaster is the reason he committed treason eight years ago.

But that is for another page.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue