Veil of Lies

Author: Jeri Westerson

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur

Release Date: November 4, 2008

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4.5

Format: PRINT





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The year is 1384 and down-on-his-luck Crispin Guest has been hired by a wealthy textile merchant, Nicholas Walcote, to follow the man's wife. In short order, Crispin discovers the merchant's beautiful wife is indeed committing adultery – and with a mysterious Saracen from the Middle East. When Crispin goes to report the news to his client, however, he finds the man stabbed to death, his body lying in a locked room. Although his client is dead, that doesn't stop Crispin from pursuing the case.

The London sheriff suspects Walcote's wife, but Crispin has his doubts. From the moment he first lays eyes on Philippa, Crispin is taken with her beauty and her stubborn will. He can't believe she's the murderer, and he becomes determined to protect her and clear her name. But she is an adulteress, a powerful motive for killing her husband. Who else could possibly have a reason to kill the eccentric, reclusive merchant?

Many people, Crispin soon discovers. Walcote and an unknown accomplice had been engaging in some creative accounting in order to skim funds from the King's share of the textile profits. And Walcote's own brothers hated him. As if that weren't enough, Crispin learns that Walcote possessed a holy relic, a cloth said to have wiped the face of Jesus – and now the cloth is missing. A sinister group of shady Italian businessmen wants that cloth back, and they're prepared to pay Crispin an insane sum of money if he can recover it for them.

As Crispin draws closer to uncovering the identity of Walcote's murderer, he also finds himself struggling with his growing desire for Philippa, his client's widow. Young and fiercely determined, Philippa has risen from being a scullery maid to become the wife of a wealthy and powerful merchant. Crispin is intrigued by her ability to reinvent herself, something he's been trying to do ever since the King stripped him of his lands and his title eight long years ago. In a strange way, he feels he's found a kindred spirit in Philippa. However, Philippa has many secrets of her own. Crispin's affection for her could lead him into danger and even death.

Jeri Westerson's first "Medieval noir" novel is a triumph. Her vivid depiction of life in fourteenth-century London made me feel like I was right there with Crispin. The tale of the Mandyllon, the cloth that wiped Jesus' face, was a fascinating bit of history that added intrigue to an already complex plot. VEIL OF LIES was a real page-turner, with a lively pace and a cleverly constructed crime. A wide and colorful cast of suspects kept me guessing about the murderer's identity right up to the end. Beyond the well-developed mystery, though, VEIL OF LIES is also a moving character portrait of Crispin, a disgraced hero striving to create a place for himself in a society that now considers him a nonentity. This is an exciting story and Jeri Westerson is definitely an author to watch.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Lynn Reynolds

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