The Deepest Grave by Jeri Westerson
I read it as a: galley
Length: 224 pp
Publisher: Severn House
In this latest installment of Westerson’s Crispin Guest medieval noir series, the timeline skips ahead about a year from the previous novel, Season of Blood. The Deepest Grave opens (haha, see what I did there?) with one Father Bulthius coming to Crispin, seeking answers to the mystery of revenants – corpses rising from the grave and walking at night – in the small church of St. Modwen. Naturally, Crispin is skeptical but he takes the case. While he is out, a person from his past comes calling for aid. Philippa Walcote, Crispin’s former lover, comes begging for help, for her young son stands accused of murdering a neighboring fabric merchant and competitor to his father’s business. Crispin is reluctant to become entrenched with Philippa again in any way, but as his apprentice Jack Tucker reminds him, a client is a client, and the Walcotes are wealthy clients indeed. Crispin and Jack embark on a quest to solve the case of wandering corpses, save a child from the hangman’s noose, and figure out why the relic of St. Modwen herself keeps following Crispin around, to his supreme consternation.
This was probably my second favorite novel in the Crispin Guest series. My favorite remains Blood Lance. But this novel is full of fast paced narration and interesting character developments. One development in particular was especially nice, though there is absolutely no way to mention it without major spoilers. But it is bittersweet and lovely and I loved that it happened. It shows Crispin really growing and changing as a man. Jack is now a grown man, too, though still very young and inexperienced. He is married to his sweetheart Isabel, who readers know as the niece of Eleanor and Gilbert of the Boar’s Tusk ale house, and they are about to become parents. For readers such as myself who have been with Crispin and Jack since the beginning of the series, that’s a real bit of cognitive dissonance right there, because isn’t Jack still just ten years old? He can’t possibly be old enough to be a father yet! But it is wonderful to see him growing into a fine young man with a great deal of potential and so aptly learning a vocation that will sustain him and his family.
I loved the recurring theme of family throughout this novel. While the concept of the family has played a part in many, if not most, of the Crispin Guest books, it took a larger part here. Crispin, in the earlier years following his disseizment, would never have considered a servant to be part of his family. At best, he would have thought of Jack and others of his social rank as part of his household, but not his family. At worst, he would view servants as lesser beings, entirely beneath him, and in his past, we did see Crispin exhibit these views. Now, though, he is reflecting a great deal on what family is and has come to realize that family isn’t necessarily who you are related to by blood, but who stands by you no matter what, connected by bonds of love rather than duty. His apprentice was his teacher in that lesson. Crispin finally understands that Jack and Isabel and their new baby are his family, and Eleanor and Gilbert, and Nigellus Cobmartin, and John Rykener. It was a lesson long in the learning, but one that was well worth the wait, because I think that good things are coming for Crispin because of it. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter of his life. The characters in this series are as real to me as actual people I know in my own life, and I feel for them, and I sorrow with them, and rejoice with them, and I am always delighted when we get a new story about them.
Eventually you will also be able to read this review on Discovering Diamonds.