Death And The Chapman (1991) by Kate Sedley

1471, Bristol, and Roger, a former monk turned chapman – a travelling salesman of trinkets and such – is starting his new life on the road. It isn’t long before he comes across an intriguing tale. A local man, Clement Weaver, made his way to London, but disappeared in Crooked Lane. No trace was found of him, or the large sum of money he was carrying.

Despite promising to head to London to try and find the truth about Clement’s fate, Roger finds himself in Canterbury (did he somehow miss London when going from Bristol to Canterbury?) and has almost put thoughts of Clement from his head, when he hears another story of people (and their money) vanishing from Crooked Lane. Determined to find the truth, Roger heads for London to seek the truth…

Canelo have got a nice little catalogue of historical mysteries that they are re-releasing as ebooks. They have the outstanding Brother Athelstan books from Paul Doherty, the sumptuous Last Templar series from Michael Jecks and now the Roger The Chapman series by Kate Sedley. I’ve heard a lot about this series from recommendations for good historical mysteries – pretty sure that Sergio mentioned it a couple of times – so when I saw this, the first of twenty-two titles, going cheap as an ebook, I figured it was well past time to take a look.

Well, to be honest, it doesn’t measure up to the other two series I mentioned. Not much does for me, in the historical mystery scene, as Paul and Mike are the masters of this stuff in my book. The best I could say about this is that it’s a reasonable start.

I did like the character of Roger, although his sudden conviction to find the truth seemed to come a little out of nowhere. Plot-wise, though, this takes an age to get going. There’s a couple of sections of historical exposition that could have been trimmed, although Roger does get involved in the royal shenanigans eventually, so I suppose it’s necessary. In terms of the murder plot, though, there just isn’t that much going on, and anyone who is surprised by the “twist” really can’t have read many murder mysteries.

There’s potential here, certainly, and I think I’ll be back to take a look at another in the series at some point. But I’m wondering if I should head a bit later into the series to where the author has found her feet and established her character.

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