The Saint John’s Fern

This is a new category on my blog, and one that I had in mind from the beginning but it is only now that I have found a good book to start with.

The Saint John’s Fern by Kate Sedley

Allow me to introduce you to Roger the Chapman, a former Benedictine monk, turned pedlar & mystery solver. “The Saint John’s Fern” is the 9th book in the series about Roger the Chapman, published in 1999. The first Roger the Chapman book was published in 1991 and the last on in 2013. There are 22 books in this series by Kate Sedley.

Kate Sedley, the pseudonym of Brenda Margaret Lilian Honeyman Clarke (born 1926) is an English historical novelist. She is 95 years old and still active as a writer! Now that is a life goal if ever I saw one!

The Story

Master Capstick, a rich old man, is beaten to death. His nephew Beric is seen leaving the scene, covered in blood, and has since vanished. Where could the culprit be? It has been 5 months since the crime and the murderer has yet to be arrested. It is a real mystery where he could be. Roger the Chapman doesn’t like murderers, even worse if they get away with it.

The local people, quick to fall back on the witchcraft of their ancestors, blame the Saint John’s fern, which if eaten can make a man invisible. Roger, already responsible for solving many difficult mysteries (remember this is book 9 in the series), suspects that there is a more obvious answer and begins his own inquiries.

These books give you double the fun: lots of good cultural and social, as well as historical, detail about Medieval England and really fun puzzle/murder mysteries. It helps that the main character is a clever man with a good head on his shoulders, and now a chapman (travelling salesman) has some worldly knowledge as well. Yet, his opponents manage to fool him (and you as the reader). A good and fun read till the end.

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