The Cross-Legged Knight, Candace Robb, Mysterious Press, $23.95.(out of print, check for used copies at our ABE store).
This is one of the strongest entries in an already strong series, and can easily be read on it's own or as the continuation of an enjoyable series. This novel finds Robb's protaganist, Owen Archer, at home in 14th century York with his wife, the Apothecary Lucie, who has recently lost a child. This fact becomes a central one, as Owen and Lucie's marriage founders due to her grief at the loss of her child. Both of them are more than distracted by a terrible fire that takes place at the beginning of the novel, leaving one woman dead and a man badly burned, and it's here Robb shows her strength, as she powerfully draws the reader into the burned man's treatment and the amputation of his arm. Lucie helps to care for him at first, and Owen is left to piece together the mystery not only behind the fire but behind another mysterious accident that befalls the Bishop of Winchester, owner of the burned house.
The "Cross-Legged Knight" of the title refers to Sir Ranulf, lost to the French while ransom demands were being negotiated by the Bishop. As was the custom, only his heart was returned for burial, and his daughter has portrayed him as cross-legged on his tomb - the mark of a crusader. Sir Ranulf's family, the Ferribys, are fighting amongst themselves and much of Owen's suspicions about the fire devolve on them.
While Owen and Lucie seem to be working at cross purposes, and with uncompromising schedules that leave them both exhausted (a very familiar contemporary arrangement), they are separately trying to come to grips with a grief that begs for them to deal with it together. While Robb's characters assuredly exist within the confines of the very vivid 14th century she portrays, her characters and their concerns are universal, and very moving. This is a bravura work that combines a good mystery with an exquisite sense of place and finds at its center two very memorable characters.
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