Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A (maybe) medieval noir

Westerson, Jeri
Veil of Lies
St.Martin's Minotaur, New York, New York, 2008
280 pp.
ISBN 13:978-0-312-37977-3
ISBN 10:0-312-37977-3

Jeri Westerson is a new author. If her first novel, Veil of Lies is any indication, she promises to be a very good mystery writer. I have read or tried to read, a number of mysteries set in medieval times, and in my opinion, most of them just aren't that good. Jeri Westerson is an exception. Again, in my opinion, she compares quite favorably with Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death.

Like Ariana Franklin's "Adelia" character, the hero of Veil of Lies is an outsider, though in this case, a "self-made" one, in a senswe. He used to be a knight, but was divested of his knighthood thanks in part ot King Richard II, who apparenlty had some "spoiled brat" qualities(these weren't entirely his fault, but that's another story). So he's not a knight and he's not an "ordinary person", though he lives in a decidedly downscale part of medieval London. And he's known as The Tracker, who helps a rather blustery Sheriff of London on occasion.

Westerson calls this book a "medieval noir", and I suppose you could say it is. In some ways, though, it's more like Tami Hoag's latest Eleanor Estes mystery, Alibi Man. Eleanor Estes, though living in modern "horse country" Florida, is also a "self made" outsider, for reasons somewhat similar to those of Crispin Guest. Both Guest and Eleanor Estes are very "dark" characters. But it's also like the Ariana Franklin books, in that it's set in medieval times, and gives the reader a very good flavor of what it must have been like for most people living then(note: Ariana Franklin's books are set over 200 years earlier).

Westerson also knows how to write a good mystery --- with lots of twists and turns of plot, just like any good mystery should have. And though she calls this tale a "noir", the ending is very satisfactory, without leaving the bad taste in your mouth, that you sometimes get reading "noir" type mysteries. I also really appreciate the fact thast the characters(unlike in some books of all genres set in medieval times) don't "speak forsoothly". I, personally, hate this!

I am really very impressed with Ms. Westerson's first book. I believe she put a lot of effort into it, and she is an excellent writer besides. I look forward to her next book, which is supposed to come out sometime in 2009. For those interested, the title is Serpent in the Thorns. It will also feature Crispin Guest, and I myself look forward to reading it.
Anne G

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