Friday, October 25, 2013

"Shadow of the Alchemist"

Jeri Westerson's first five books featuring Crispin Guest are Veil of Lies, Serpent in the Thorns, The Demon's Parchment, Troubled Bones, and Blood Lance.

Westerson applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the series, Shadow of the Alchemist, and reported the following:
Shadow of the Alchemist has a murder, a relic, and a Moriarity-type villain to cross wits with our hero, Crispin Guest, ex-knight turned detective. Crispin has become known as The Tracker, a man who can solve any puzzle or find any missing object—for a price. Perenelle, the wife of infamous alchemist Nicholas Flamel, has been kidnapped and the culprit wants his most prized creation, the Philosopher’s Stone. Flamel’s assistant is murdered and ancient symbols turn up on walls and carved on stones throughout London. Crispin must decipher them in a strange treasure hunt to find the man responsible. What follows is a chase down the shadowy streets of London, between men who know the secrets of poisons and purges, sorcery and forbidden sciences. With the help of Flamel’s deaf mute servant Avelyn and Crispin's apprentice, the indomitable Jack Tucker, Crispin races against time to save Perenelle from disaster, and the Philosopher’s Stone from falling into the wrong hands.

With this excerpt we are in the middle of the action. Much has transpired and Crispin is trying to sort it out.

From page 69:
“I don’t understand you,” he growled. He took her by the shoulders and propelled her roughly toward the door. “You must leave!”

She shook him off and gritted her teeth in frustration. She looked around the room and ran from corner to corner, etching more signs on the walls with her fingers.

“She’s gone mad,” said Jack in a whisper.

“She is trying to tell me something, but I don’t have time to decipher it.” He ran his hand over his face. He had passed quite a pleasant night with her. It cheered his heart and made some of the pain go away, but now the light of day had arrived and the fancies of the night were best forgotten.

Night. He looked at his apprentice who kept his eyes on the young woman. “Where were you most of the night, Jack?”

“I was at Master Flamel’s, sir. I thought I should await a message from the abductor since the ransom was not taken.”

“And was there a message?”

“No, sir. None. And Master Flamel was having a right fit. I spent most of the night calming him down. I thought to spend the night, as Avelyn had not returned… Course, now I see why. But I thought you would want me back, so though it was late, I returned. But Master Crispin, if it was Lord Henry in St. Paul’s to collect the ransom and you caught him at it—”

“I am not convinced he is involved.”

“Oh. Well. Perhaps. But if not him, then who?”

“I don’t know. They want this precious stone. And yet Flamel exchanged the ransom for one of no value. He told me it was to buy time, but that is a very unsatisfactory answer.”

“Wait,” said Jack, eyes pinging back and forth between Avelyn’s still frantic movements and Crispin’s stillness. “Why would Lord Henry have need for a valuable commodity such as that broach? He has his own wealth, almost as rich as the duke.”

“I know. I did wonder that, too. Which makes me all the more convinced that Henry had little to do with it.”

“A coincidence his being there, then?”

“No, not a coincidence. I don’t believe in those.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Jeri Westerson's website and her "Getting Medieval" blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Demon's Parchment.

--Marshal Zeringue