“The poet John Gower is the perfect narrator and amateur sleuth. . . . Holsinger’s research, alongside the energetic vulgarity of a language in flux, delivers up a world where even the filth is colorful.” - The New York Times Book Review
London, 1385. England's young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England's kings—and among the book's predictions is Richard's assassination.
Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a seditious manuscript that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the book, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. Gower discovers that the book has fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king's court to London's slums and stews—and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.
Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.
"Thrillingly written . . . I was swept along by the quality of the writing and the remarkable wealth of detail. The past rarely comes this splendidly to life." - The Washington Post
The author of the acclaimed historical thriller A Burnable Book once again brings medieval London alive in all its color and detail in a riveting novel that imagines the beginnings of gun violence in the Western world.
London, 1386: A mass murder has taken place within the city walls. Sixteen corpses have been dumped where they are sure to be found, bearing wounds like none seen before. John Gower, middling poet and expert trader in secrets, is summoned to investigate the killings even as the ruthless mayor of London seeks to thwart an open inquiry for reasons unknown. Gower learns that the men have fallen victim to handgonnes, new and terrifying weapons that threaten to change the future of war. Challenged by deception and treachery on all sides, Gower struggles against his failing vision even as his inquiries take him from the City's labyrinthine slums to the port of Calais to the forests of Kent, where his friend Geoffrey Chaucer serves as justice of the peace. As Gower strives to discover the source of the new guns and the identity of those who wielded them, he must risk everything to reveal the truth - and prevent a more devastating massacre on London's crowded streets ...