Candace Robb

Owen Archer - Reluctant Spy & Detective, Late 14th Century England

"The Cross-Legged Knight"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer FEB 17, 2005)

The Cross Legged Knight by Candace Robb

Owen Archer, a spy working under Archbishop Thoresby, has been assigned to watch over Bishop Wykeham (The King's Bishop), who failed to negotiate a ransom for a York Knight arrested as a spy may have lead to the knight's death. Sir Ranulf Pagnell’s family seems to have taken exception to Wykeham's failure, and refuse to see him, forcing him to wait until they are “available.“ While he’s inspecting a building site, a fallen tile misses his head by inches, and not long after a house that he was renting to a family catches fire. Two bodies are recovered, one still alive, one charred beyond recognition, save that the body is female. The male victim is taken to Archer’s house, where his wife, an herbalist of great talent, can watch after him. Soon Archer discovers that the woman who died was strangled, and that she was one of his wife's friends. For Archer, he needs to discover who did the killing and why, and what ties it has to his charge, who chafes at being watched over. For his wife Lucie, slowly recovering from a miscarriage, the task of discovering who murdered Cisotta is much more personal.

The mystery itself, as it unfolds, is well done. It’s one of those footwork mysteries, where we accompany Owen and Lucie on their separate walks around the village, each using their own special powers...Owen is a master spy, and well versed in people, Lucie, being a healer, is well liked, even by the local lady, Emma Pagnell. Both are slightly hampered by their recent loss, adding an extra dimension to their search, as Owen can’t help but worry over his wife and Lucie mourn her baby.

That’s not what makes this story spectacular. Robb has a real eye for the time. I’ve studied the middle ages and have a real love for the period, but she added many details into the story that I didn’t know. For instance, many people, like Sir Pagnell, when they died on foreign soil, were not transported whole back to their homeland, but rather a body part, usually the heart, was sent. (Robert the Bruce, according to her wonderful notes in the back, was one of these.) Also, the name of the book comes from Pagnell’s interest in the Crusades. As you probably know, many knight’s or Lords who could afford the stone work had an effigy or likeness carved as the lid of their tomb. He wanted his knight to be cross-legged, because Crusading knights often had their tombs carved with cross-legged knights to symbolize the fact they were part of the crusades. She also calls one of the characters a tawyer...I didn’t know this, but a tawyer is a person who processes the skins of goats, rabbits and other small animals, usually using alum and oil, while a tanner is one who works with the larger hides, such as cattle. Whenever you go somewhere with one of the characters, it is a lesson in the history of those times, every place, every person, is described so well, so detailed, so accurately that you truly feel like you’re there.

This eighth Owen Archer mystery is an impressive journey back into the past, and an intriguing who done it.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Owen Archer Mysteries:

Margaret Kerr of Perth Mysteries:

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

author photoCandace Robb was born in Taylorsville, North Carolina. She received her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. Her graduate work in medieval literature was the inspiration for the historical setting in her novels.

She is a former editor of technical publications at the University of Washington and now writes full-time and teaches creative writing in UW's Extension College. She is a member of the Authors Guild, the Medieval Academy of America, the Richard III Society, the International Association of Crime Writers, the British Crime Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and the American Crime Writers League.

Candace lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, Charlie. However, she also spends much time researching in the City of York and in Edinburgh, Scotland where her works are set.

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