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The Prodigal Son
Roger the Chapman series #15

by Kate Sedley

      Roger the Chapman is pleased to discover that he has a half-brother called John Wedmore, but dismayed when a visiting lady mistakes him for her missing page boy. Six years ago, her page, a lad called John Jericho, stole a quantity of plate and jewels from her house, killing a servant. John Wedmore is thrown into jail, and it is up to Roger to shoulder his pack again and leave for Croxcombe Manor near Wells, the scene of the crime. But it is also to be the homecoming of the Audrea Bellknapp's errant elder son, Anthony, the sole heir, and all set to put the cat among the pigeons. It looks as though there might be another murder for Roger to solve.

These Roger the Chapman mysteries are always highly entertaining and endlessly inventive. Here Roger takes a rest from working for the Duke of Gloucester and tries to unravel events at a country manor house. This story has the classic "country house murder" feel about it, with none of the characters, apart from Roger, particularly sympathetic. Thus a puzzle element, rather than a tragedy, is the result. This makes it a relaxing and almost "cozy" novel, a welcome change for UK readers from blood-bolterer'd serial killers, world-weary cops, and woeful "realism." Not that this is an unrealistic story, for the setting (seen as ever through Roger's keenly descriptive eyes) has an authentic ring to it, and the uncooperative murder suspects (i.e. everybody in the story) seem all too flesh and blood. Like all Ms Sedley's works, this is an admirably slim volume, but positively bursting with incident. Perhaps it should be recommended reading for all wannabe whodunit writers. The only problem in these books is Roger's lack of time spent actually peddling, with a growing family and an expensive house in Bristol to keep. This continues to be a bigger mystery at times than the books themselves offer, but it is surely a testament to the rattling good yarns Ms Sedley writes, in that it does not spoil the books. Highly recommended.

The Book

Severn House
January 2006
Historical [1480, Wells and environs, Somerset, UK]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006