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The Queen's Man by Sharon Kay Penman
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991278,651 (3.82)78
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    A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (mcalister)
    mcalister: Anyone who enjoys mysteries set in the Middle Ages should not miss Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael books. 'A Morbid Taste for Bones' is the first in the series.

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I dithered between a three and four star rating with this. Sharon Kay Penman is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction, up there with the likes of Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Dorothy Dunnett. Penman's The Sunne in Splendour and Here Be Dragons, set in Plantagenet times in England and Wales, are books I rated five stars and are among the most moving books I've ever read. The Queen's Man is not of that caliber, and it's probably unfair to compare them at all. The other two novels are sweeping doorstopper epics of over 700 pages spanning lifetimes and dealing with the reigns of princes. This 290-page book taking place over a few months beginning in December of 1192 is a very different animal--as stated in the subtitle it's a "medieval mystery." Think Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael books.

And by those terms this book compares well, and has many of the same pleasures, and compensations for the differences. No, Penman isn't going to give Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers or Josephine Tey a run for their money. The resolution wasn't clever and you'll find nothing deep here--this isn't Eco's The Name of the Rose by any means. But did I like this? Really like this? I did. I've been sick with a cold and really needed sleep and I can't tell you how hard it was to put this book down last night unfinished. Penman's sleuth Justin de Quincey isn't, at least at this point in the first book, as beguiling a character as Brother Cadfael, but if anything comes through it's Penman's love and thorough knowledge of this period, and she sweeps you in and out of a Queen's antechamber with as much aplomb as an alehouse or gaol, populating this book with people from all walks of medieval English life. And the "queen" of the title is Eleanor of Aquitaine--and whenever she appears in the pages--all too rarely and briefly--I'm riveted to the page. Penman draws her charisma well. And whether she's taking you into a Lazar house or a horse fair, I felt transported by a sure hand. So yes, this was fun. I relished it.

On a personal note, this was a Christmas gift by a friend who knew I admired Penman but had never read her Justin de Quincey mysteries. The book she got me is this hardcover edition with this lovely cover with an embossed seal and gilt lettering that reminded me of what a sensuous experience it can be to read a book. A real book between covers. No doubt that contributed to the enjoyment. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Apr 21, 2016 |
This is an interesting mystery set in 1192, when Richard the Lionheart was thought to have been taken prisoner and his brother John was finagling to take over the throne. The story introduces Justin de Quincey, a likeable young man, the illegitimate son of a bishop who has just left home on discovering the truth of his origins. When he witnessed the murder of a goldsmith who was en route with a letter to the queen, Eleanor of Aquitane, he took it upon himself to deliver the letter himself. In doing so he becomes a sleuth for Eleanor. This was Penman's first mystery, after writing historical fiction. Her portrayal of medieval life is well-researched and realistic. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Mar 22, 2016 |
Justin de Qujincy is a young man who has been raised by a bishop. When he learns that his mother was a prostitute and the bishop was his father, he erupts and is thrown out of the house. On his way to finding his way in the world, he tries to rescue a man and his servant who had been set upon by highway robbers. Before the wealthy man dies he charges Justin with delivering a letter to the Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. She sees a loyalty and intelligence in the young man and charges him with discovering who murdered the letter carrier and why. Justin falls pretty easily into London life and makes new friends quickly. He fearlessly dives into the search.

I was not quite as taken up by this situation as I was with other medieval mysteries but It kept my interest to the end. ( )
  mamzel | Mar 5, 2016 |
Justin de Quincy is the well-educated but illegitimate son of a cleric who is trying to find his place in the world. While traveling to a nearby village, he narrowly avoids an ambush and discovers the dying victim is carrying a letter for Queen Eleanor. The letter contains information regarding the whereabouts of her son, King Richard the Lionheart, who has gone missing during his return from the Crusades. Eleanor is impressed with Justin's courage and honesty and asks him to investigate the man's murder. She wants to know if the killing was ordered by her youngest son, John, or another of the enemies of England. As Justin investigates the murder, he finds that several of the victim's family also had motives for his death. Justin finds himself more embroiled in the intrigues of court politics as his investigation expands. Along the way he finds friendship, love, and betrayal from some unlikely sources.

I'm a huge fan of Sharon Kay Penman but have never read any of this mystery series featuring Justin de Quincy. If I had gone into this looking for another Sunne in Splendour or When Christ and His Saints Slept I might have been very disappointed. This is much lighter in tone but is nevertheless, quite good if you happen to enjoy medieval mysteries. The characters and the wealth of medieval atmosphere is very intriguing. The plot is interesting, the dialogue is authentic without being heavy-handed, and the characters are realistic in their histories and actions. While not as deep or complex as her straight historical fiction work, you're going to enjoy this book if you are a medieval fan. Currently there are four Justin de Quincy mysteries and I'm definitely planning to read them all, starting with the next one, Cruel as the Grave.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Quite a good read. After starting When Christ and his Saints Slept I set it aside and have not picked it back up yet however, this book was quite enjoyable. I found the characters to be believable, likable and interesting and the plot kept my interest. ( )
  goth_marionette | Sep 21, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 034542316X, Mass Market Paperback)

Do you know the story of Sharon Kay Penman's first mystery novel, The Sunne in Splendour? She spent every spare moment for years--first as a law student, then as a lawyer--working on the book about Richard III. And when the only copy of the manuscript was stolen from her car, she sat down and wrote it again. Five excellent historical mysteries later, Penman has started a new series set even farther back in time. It's 1193, and King Richard has disappeared on his way back to England after fighting in the Crusades. Justin de Quincy, the well-educated but illegitimate son of a bishop, is tapped to search for the missing ruler, and he turns out to be just the chap to blow away the cobwebs that often hang over historical mystery. Other Penman picks: Falls the Shadow; Here Be Dragons; Reckoning.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:39 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The 12th Century sleuth, Justin de Quincy, investigates a murder which could shed light on a plot to usurp the crown of England. Prince John is scheming to unseat his brother, King Richard the Lionheart, who went missing as he was returning from a crusade.… (more)

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Sharon Kay Penman is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Sharon Kay Penman chatted with LibraryThing members from Aug 10, 2009 to Aug 21, 2009. Read the chat.

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