Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Green Man

I've read a number of disappointing mysteries over the past few years.  A few of my favorite series hit lulls (or I reached the lesser installments), but I could rely on Kate Sedley to provide me with a crisply written puzzle which I could solve (but not too easily).  The Green Man isn't a bad book, but it doesn't live up to Sedley's prior books.

England is suffering from famine and turmoil during the summer of 1482 when Timothy Plummer (spymaster to Richard, Duke of Gloucester) arrives in Bristol with a mission for Roger Chapman.  Guard Alexander, Duke of Albany and prospective heir to the Scottish throne during a military campaign against the Scots.  Albany believes that someone is out to kill him, possibly someone close, and he believes that Roger's presence will save his life.  Roger reluctantly leaves Adela and their children and shadows Albany as someone apparently makes several attempts on his life.  Someone who usually disguises himself as the mythical Green Man.

I've complained about subplots in the past, but for me at least, the subplot to The Green Man, a murder charge against Rab Sinclair, one of Albany's closest friends, was more satisfying than the somewhat convoluted question of the threats against the Duke.  Perhaps it's because I'm less well-versed in the history of the English Monarchy (the years between Edward II and Henry VIII, particularly the Wars of the Roses, confuse me) than her average reader, but I just couldn't get a handle on the political implications.  It may be, though that Roger is more at home solving crimes in Bristol or in one of the settlements where he sells his wares.  There, as in the subplot, Roger merely has to discover and interpret the fact, and uncovering a simple lie (as happens in the Sinclair case) unravels the mystery.  Political intrigue is murkier and less easily solved.  Roger began his detecting career in the service of Duke Richard, but Sedley should probably keep him away from politics in the future. 

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