Monday, September 28, 2009

History's Mysteries

Reviewed by Susan Wolfe

The Dance of Death (Roger the Chapman Mysteries) by Kate Sedley

Nothing beats a good mystery. And history is chocked full of ‘em. That’s why I get excited whenever one of my favorite “history mystery” writers hits a home run. Kate Sedley is one of the best. She doesn’t disappoint with her latest – The Dance of Death. (Honestly, they are all excellent)

Set in one of England’s most pivotal times…just before the discovery of America... England was in turmoil. Edward IV is in decline, his treacherous wife and her greedy Woodville family are always up to no good. It’s a dangerous time to live and especially so if you have a curious mind, like Roger. Edward’s brother, Richard of Gloucester, will eventually seize the throne, becoming known as Richard III, Shakespeare’s murderer of the “Little Princes.” Villain? Maybe not. Even today, people either love Richard or hate him. (Believe it or not, there are Richard III re-enactor clubs.) But for this series, Roger sometimes works for him to solve a mystery. Now Roger is a chapman, a peddler of sorts. He can travel all over England and always somehow stumbles over a mystery that needs solving. Sometimes he is assigned to one by Richard of Gloucester, sometimes not.

In The Dance of Death, Roger becomes a reluctant spy. If the rumors are true about the king’s parentage, then Richard is the rightful heir to the throne. The answer appears to rest in France. Roger cannot speak French and he is on vacation with his very pregnant wife. Last thing he wants is to be drafted into finding any evidence about these allegations. Reluctantly, he is assigned with locating an informant in France described as a “former soldier living in Paris”. Plus he must pretend he’s married to an attractive spy who tried to kill him on a previous mission. Both the preparations for the trip and the trip itself are marked by several murders, almost including Rogers. It is a rollicking adventure with a lot twists and turns. Funny, and full of historical detail. These mysteries are like cookies, you just want to keep on reading them.

1. Death and the Chapman (1991)
2. The Plymouth Cloak (1992)
3. The Hanged Man aka The Weaver's Tale (1993)
4. The Holy Innocents (1994)
5. The Eve of Saint Hyacinth (1995)
6. The Wicked Winter (1995)
7. The Brothers of Glastonbury (1997)
8. The Weaver's Inheritance (1998)
9. The Saint John's Fern (1999)
10. The Goldsmith's Daughter (2001)
11. The Lammas Feast (2002)
12. Nine Men Dancing (2003)
13. The Midsummer Rose (2004)
14. The Burgundian's Tale (2005)
15. Prodigal Son (2006)
16. The Three Kings of Cologne (2007)
17. The Green Man (2008)
18. The Dance of Death (2009)

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