Exeter, September 1473, and Roger the Chapman was not expecting to bump into Richard, Duke of Gloucester, whose acquaintance he made in his previous adventure, Death And The Chapman, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to be asked to accompany a royal messenger, Philip Underwood, to Plymouth, but Richard is a hard man to say no to. Underwood, it seems, needs a bodyguard more than just a companion, as there seem to be a number of people perfectly happy to kill him – enemies of the king or just cheated husbands.
Arriving in Plymouth, followed at every turn by shadowy figures, Roger and Underwood find themselves awaiting Underwood’s ship. Alas, he will never be sailing on it, as he is found dead, bludgeoned by Roger’s own club, the so-called Plymouth Cloak…
I wasn’t much of a fan of Death And The Chapman, mostly due to the plot being not particularly engrossing – it simply wasn’t much of a mystery. I did enjoy the setting and the lead character, however, so I resolved to give the series another go. Unfortunately, this one suffers from some of the same problems with the plot.
To quote my review of that one, “plot-wise, though, this takes an age to get going”. Yup, that’s true this time, as the body takes a full 50% of the book to turn up – you can always tell when that’s going to happen by a prologue about discovering it, before flashing back to the start of the tale.
After that, we spend far too long chasing after a mysterious someone who has been following the pair pre-murder and it’s hardly a leap to say that if they’re the murderer, it’s a cheat as we haven’t met the character and if it’s not, he had better add some important information – which he doesn’t. The book teases that Roger is suspected of the crime because his weapon was used, but… he’s not. He finds it and cleans it, and apart from the odd mention of a stain on the club, it never comes up.
Oh, and the murderer was, to me at least, more obvious than Captain Obvious on a really obvious day.
OK, Kate Sedley fans – which book in the series is the one that is going to convince me to continue with these? Which is the best one – I really hope it’s not this one…
I started reading the Chapman Series as they were published from book 11 The Lammas Feast & have read to the end of the series (& I read a few of the earlier ones as & when I’ve found them later). I think the ‘middle’ half dozen or so of the series (bk 11 – 17+) are the better mysteries, being more tightly plotted & with the Chapman’s character developing within a turbulent period of royal history (Richard 111 etc). However, I really enjoyed the wealth of historical social & political detail in all the books, & used to read along with a printout of the relevant royal family tree to sort out the side politics & look up characters mentioned as many were real figures.