Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 21, 2015)
The appearance of this book portends ominous events, a grainy, fiery dust cover of a royal coat of arms. No gold embossing for the title, well done Harper Collins, and quality a paper and printing. Usual hardback rule of thumb applies to reading and there’s a helpful map of 14th century London in the front.
It’s good to see Holsinger has found a groove to write in. The main two sided storytelling elements, reminiscent of a TV crime series, that were present in his first novel, A Burnable Book, are still there. On one side information broker and real life poet John Gower narrates his way around London, trying to solve the mystery of the murder of 16 men, found in a privy pit by Medieval sewer workers, killed by a powerful new weapon, the handgonne. The other side of coin reveals the string ends of a puppet master, the props of a powerful hand, who are the keys to the whole mystery yet separated from Gower’s investigations by a trail of silent witnesses, who the poet must track down before they are snuffed out. These two alternate narratives deliberately shield the third key element that ties it all together, and is slowly revealed, piece by piece, as the book progresses.
Holsinger has written another deep, psychological thriller full of threat, menace, violence, mystery, misery and pain, with grime, dirt, dark humour, introspective tangent, intrigue and historical detail with a deeply flawed cast replete with shade and some moments of light, but very few truly noble or heroic figures. This is a dark almost nightmarish world, safe only to those who had been born to it. A dirt of your fingers short lived place, were nothing is guaranteed, not the sight your eyes were birthed with, nor the crown on a King’s head.