Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Serpent in the Thorns"

Jeri Westerson is a journalist, author of Veil of Lies, and noted blogger on things mysterious and medieval.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Serpent in the Thorns, her second medieval mystery featuring Crispin Guest, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Serpent in the Thorns:

Crispin pulled the last strands of yellow straw over the box and stepped back to look at the pile. The straw conjured images of the bed he slept on in one of Newgate’s cells, little better than this pile of straw, and the cell had been much colder than this room. All had been silent and mostly dark, until they allowed him a candle. Alone had been best, for he knew that when the cell door opened, the questioning and the torture would begin anew. He came to dread the sound of whining hinges and rattling keys. Each time the door yawned he hoped the guards would take him to the executioner. But such relief was not to be. Only the last time. The last time at court.

He thought of Miles. How comfortable life must have been for him the last seven years. All Crispin’s comrades executed, and all too brave to name Miles Aleyn. Even Crispin had said nothing. But now Crispin would say. Nothing would stop his tongue. But he must be careful. He must do so with enough evidence. There was still one more unknown conspirator. Someone powerful enough to hire Miles and want either Lancaster or Richard dead. Who at court would dare such a feat? He’d wait to bring the Crown of Thorns so that he could pillory Miles and this other man at the same time. That would be a prize.

He looked at Jack. “Not yet,” Crispin said. The sneer did not leave his lips. “I have more work to do before I can.”

“I would be rid of such a thing. What do you know of it? I mean—” Jack stared at the pile of straw that hid the box. He crushed his arms over his chest. “Is it truly the Crown of Thorns placed on our Lord’s head?”

“That is what they say. But for all the answers, I do know someone better to ask. Get your cloak.”

Crispin, my ex-knight turned detective, is ruminating on his trials of seven years earlier when he was arrested for treason. The box he is hiding encases a relic—the Crown of Thorns—brought from the French court by couriers, one of whom was found murdered. And Miles, the man he is discussing with his young servant Jack Tucker, was one of the conspirators of seven years ago in the treasonous plot that laid Crispin low. The deceptive Miles doesn’t seem to have been touched by the grave matters of days gone by and is now, in fact, the Captain of the King’s Archers.

This one page is actually a good slice of what’s begun in the book and a dark foreshadowing of what’s to follow.
Read an excerpt from Serpent in the Thorns, and 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