The first in a series of gripping murder mysteries set in 14th-century England
1361: Orphaned by the Black Death, all John possesses are the tools that belonged to his father, a carpenter, and an uncanny ability to work wood. His travels bring him to Chesterfield, where he finds work erecting the spire of the new church. But no sooner does he begin, than the master carpenter is murdered and John himself becomes a suspect. To prove his innocence John must help the coroner in his search for the killer, a quest that brings him up against some powerful enemies in a town where he is still a stranger and friends are few. Chris Nickson brilliantly evokes the feeling of time and place in this story of corruption and murder. - (Independent Publishing Group)
*Starred Review* Nickson steps back in time to the mid-fourteenth century, 400 years earlier than his popular Constable Richard Nottingham series. John, a survivor of the plague that wiped out much of England's population (including John's father), finds work on the construction crew of a new church. Almost immediately, the man who hired him is found murdered, and soon after that, John (who found the body) is at the top of the suspect list. John's only hope of proving his innocence is to help the coroner find the real murderer. It's not an unfamiliar premise—in fact, the innocent man, accused of a crime he didn't commit, fighting to find the real killer is a mainstay of the mystery genre—but this story's strong sense of time and place gives the story all the freshness it needs. Nickson paints precise pictures with words, vividly setting the post-plague backdrop: He could recall the crops rotting in the fields at harvest time, not enough people still alive to bring them in, and the cows lowing until they died, their carcasses stinking and covered with flies. He makes us feels as though we are living what seems like a fourteenth-century version of dystopia, giving this remarkable novel a powerful immediacy. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.