Reviews by L. J. Roberts

Genre:   Historical mystery. Leading character:   Roger the Chapman, 1st in series. Setting:   England–Middle Ages/1522.

KATE SEDLEY – Death and the Chapman. Harper,US, reprint paperback, April 1994. Originally published by Collins Crime Club, UK, hardcover, 1991. Also: St. Martin’s Press, US, hc, 1992.

First Sentence:   In this year of our Lord 1552 I am an old man.

KATE SEDLEY Roger the Chapman

   Roger Chapman is 70 years old. As he approaches the last chapter of his life, he decides to write the memoirs of his years spent on the road as a peddler and solving mysteries.

   As a young 18-year old, Roger left the Benedictine monastery for the road with London being his objective. His first investigation is into the disappearance of two separate gentlemen and the servant of the second servant while their bags were left behind.

   Both men were carrying a good deal of money, but their bodies have never been found. At the same time, the Duke of Gloucester wishes to marry Lady Anne Neville; a marriage opposed by her late husband’s brother. Can Roger do a service to the Royal family?

   One of the main reasons I enjoy historical mysteries is that combination of learning and the puzzle. Richard of Gloucester was a figure with whom I was not familiar, yet he achieved positions of tremendous power and responsibility by the age of 19.

   I also had not known about “corpsing,” the recovery of bodies from the Thames, their clothing stripped to be sold and the bodies returned to the river. The most interesting element, however, is the character of Roger. Here we meet him both at the beginning of his years; very young and able to be shocked; and see a bit of him at the end of his years.

   As long as the later doesn’t too much portend the latter, the stories should hold and allow us to see the character develop over time. Sedley knows her period and know how to bring it alive to her reader. Her descriptions engage your senses; sight, sound and nearly smell.

   In fact, there are points where the descriptions nearly overpower the plot. For a first book, the plot is well done although it does rely on some rather large coincidences. I do appreciate it when the author allows that coincidences do happen in life. There is some good suspense at the end, and a satisfying resolution. I did enjoy this book and I look forward to Roger’s next adventure.

Rating: Good Plus.

The “Roger the Chapman” series —

1. Death and the Chapman (1991)
2. The Plymouth Cloak (1992)
3. The Hanged Man (1993) aka The Weaver’s Tale (US)
4. The Holy Innocents (1994)

KATE SEDLEY Roger the Chapman

5. The Eve of Saint Hyacinth (1995)
6. The Wicked Winter (1995)

KATE SEDLEY Roger the Chapman

7. The Brothers of Glastonbury (1997)
8. The Weaver’s Inheritance (1998)
9. The Saint John’s Fern (1999)
10. The Goldsmith’s Daughter (2001)
11. The Lammas Feast (2002)
12. Nine Men Dancing (2003)
13. The Midsummer Rose (2004)

KATE SEDLEY Roger the Chapman

14. The Burgundian’s Tale (2005)
15. The Prodigal Son (2006)
16. The Three Kings of Cologne (2007)

KATE SEDLEY Roger the Chapman

17. The Green Man (2008)
18. The Dance of Death (2009)
19. Wheel of Fate (2010)