Cover Image: Traitor's Codex

Traitor's Codex

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I've read several of the books in the Crispin Guest series and I have to say I have enjoyed them all immensely.  That said, this particular book, which centres around the discovery of a forgotten gospel landing in the hands of Guest, isn't as much of a page-turner as the others.  The story itself is interesting but seems to take a back seat to the development of the characters - it's almost as if the author is setting the main cast up for something bigger in the next book.  We'll have to wait for it to find out I suppose!  Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest  review.  I give this installment of the series 3.5 stars.
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(See all of my Book Reviews) - "Traitor's Codex" eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Jeri Westerson ( Mr. Westerson has published nearly 30 novels. This is the 12th of his “Crispin Guest Mysteries”. 

I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in late 14th century England. The primary character is Crispin Guest. Guest had once been a Knight, but because of his involvement in a plot against King Richard II, he has been convicted of treason, his property seized, and his titles stripped from him. 

Now with no title, property or former friends, Guest makes a meager living on the streets of London using his experience and intelligence. He is a Tracker - what we would call a Private Investigator. He is handed a package one day by a stranger. When Guest later unwraps it he finds a strange and ancient manuscript. A lost Gospel of Judas.  

As he begins to investigate the package, those that he comes into contact with are targeted. There are powerful men who want to see the manuscript taken from him and destroyed. They want no knowledge of the manuscript to leak out and they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the 6.5 hours I spent reading this 224-page historical mystery. I liked the premise and the characters created in this novel. I wish I had read some of the others in the series, but I found that this read well as a stand-alone novel. I like the cover art that was chosen. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

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If you haven't read the Crispin Guest mysteries you are missing out. The author perfectly captures what it would have been like to live in an age of king and queens and knights and squires, not only the pageantry but the everyday person and their circumstances. Love these books!
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3.5 Stars

Traitor's Codex is the twelfth entry in the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series, and while it is a fun and interesting entry in this series, I really felt like it was story meant to link the previous stage to the next stage of his career.  So, while the story was interesting and Crispin was able to lay some ghosts to rest, so to speak, I thought the mystery was a bit lacking.

First of all, what I did really like in this book. The author always does a really great job at developing her characters and this book is no exception.  I have been reading this series since the first book was published and Crispin has come a long way from the man he was in that book to the kind and thoughtful man he is now.  He actually thinks about other people's well-being and even regrets not knowing some people better before their deaths, taking the time to really get to know them, to sit down with them and discourse about things.  It was interesting to see his revelations and his personal strengths develops throughout the series and he has become a more interesting character because of it. I also liked to see some resolution between Crispin and King Richard II; I know my history very well and know what is coming so it was nice to see some association between Lancaster, Richard, and Crispin.  There was even some teaser moments that included Henry, Lancaster's son, which I think will build towards future books, and I can't wait to see what happens there.  

The plot itself was interesting and moved fairly quickly, most of it taking place within a few short days. However, this book is touted to be a mystery novel and while there was a mystery, with an old scroll literally being dropped in Crispin's lap, I really felt like the mystery was not the central theme in this one.  Crispin did a lot of running around to try and translate the scroll, but most of the events around that had to do more with his life and the people in his past than with the actual mystery.  I do want to highlight here though, the importance of that scroll during this time period.  Possessing a Gospel of Judas that contained different information from what was being preached would have landed one on a pyre and was so incredibly dangerous, something I don't think the author highlighted enough, despite the deaths. Written texts were so highly prized in a society where 90% of the population could not read or write.  I think if I had not read the other books in this series, I would have rated this one higher than I did, but I found the earlier books to be a bit more suspenseful and the mysteries to be a bit more complex than this one.

Traitor's Codex was an interesting and fun entry into a really great series.  I really wish the author had pushed the Gospel of Judas text a bit more and highlighted the dangers of such a text more in her story as I don't think it went far enough. Crispin and Jack continue to develop in interesting ways and I love both of their characters.  Knowing what is in store for King Richard II, I am really curious as to how the author will develop Crispin' story in the future and what will happen to Jack. There are definitely some interesting times ahead.  And while you don't necessarily have to start at the beginning of this series in order to understand what is happening, the earlier books are really good, and I would recommend them. If you like historical mystery, this is a good series in which to indulge.
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This is my first book in the series but the  author gave enough background that I feel I understood the characters and their story. I loved the history as well as the mystery in this novel.  I was drawn back in time as I was turning the pages and found myself wanting to know more of the history.   I would now like to go back and start with the first book in the series. 
Many thanks to Severn House and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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First Sentence:  Crispin Guest eyed the room.
Rather being hired to find a missing person or item as he usually is, Tracker of London, Crispin Guest, is given a package and told he'll know what to do with it. Inside is an ancient book written in a language he's never seen but learns is Coptic. It is an unpublished book of the Bible which could challenge the very doctrine of Christian faith.   The danger of possessing this book becomes real when people to whom Guest shows it are murdered. Someone very much wants the book, and all who know of it, destroyed.
It is always a pleasure to start a new Crispin novel.  Westerson excels at acquainting one with the characters, setting, the scene, and drawing one immediately into the story.  She creates a wonderful sense of place providing information and bits of history along the way, as well as establishing the mystery almost from the start. She creates a sense of normalcy and timelessness that supersedes the period.
Part of the joy of reading historical novels is in the things one learns, and there are numerous "who knew" moments included.  Special touches are the Glossary provided at the beginning and the Afterword at the end. One small criticism is that while the dialogue provides the feel of the period, there are times it seems to try too hard and ends up being awkward.
No matter what else, it's the characters which draw one into the book, and repeatedly back to the series.  Crispin is a character who has grown and, dare one say, mellowed over the years while still being someone on whom one can always depend.  The meetings with those Crispin loved and was loyal in the past, are real and touching, particularly that with King Richard II.  Jack, his "bagman" if one will, has undergone the most change; aging, growing and maturing while being ever loyal and dedicated.  The changes in his circumstances through the series have added dimension to all the characters and the stories.
Westerson makes one think—'You cannot stomp on an idea.  Excellency.  Once the idea is out in the world, it is like the bee that flits from flower to flower.  It cannot be stopped.  Ideas are what keep mankind from stagnating in a rotten pool.  It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make the appearance in the world.'  Some of those insights are particularly relevant today—'Character.  Character does not only belong to those with breeding, my lord. Good character is conferred on the lowliest of peasants.  God grants certain men and women this character and no trial of Job will see them change their minds on it.'
"Traitor's Codex" is a very good book.  There is much about the plot which can't be said without giving things away.  While there are several threads, each holds its own, and our attention without ever becoming confusing, yet coming together in a strong cloth.
TRAITOR'S CODEX (HistMys-Crispin Guest-England-1394) – VG+
      Westerson, Jeri
      Severn House – June 2019
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One of the things I love about Netgalley is the introduction of new authors. Traitor’s Codex by Jeri Westerson is the 12th in a series. I didn’t know this when I requested it, or when I started reading it. Thankfully, it can be read as a stand-alone – there are a few references going back to earlier books, but I still got to know the characters and never felt lost.

Now, however, I fully plan on tracking down the other books and going from the beginning. There was an element of complete charm throughout the entire book. Set in the 1300’s, the most insulting thing they could throw at each other was “knave”. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

Crispin Guest is a man with a haunted past (one you no doubt see unfold in previous books). He has made his peace with his lot in life though and is learning to enjoy the simple pleasures and being grateful for what he has. Crispin is determined, stubborn and loyal in his own way. Uncomfortable at expressing his emotions, he has other ways of telling those he loves that he cares.

There are several great characters! Jack Tucker is the main reason I want to read the rest of the books: I’d love to see his development into the loyal servant/apprentice he is now. He doesn’t hide how he feels and will protect his master, no matter what. The Duke of Lancaster is also an intriguing character; there is definitely a long, complicated and emotional history between him and Crispin and I’d love to know more.

If a character can get under your skin enough that you want to backtrack through an entire series to see how they started, it definitely shows you connected with them on a personal level.

This book is mainly a mystery, but it is so much more than that. A strange book comes into Crispin Guest’s possession, and with it comes turmoil, murder and impersonations. Learning the truth could be dangerous, for him and those he cares about, but it was given to him for a reason and he must know what it is.

But underneath the mystery, this is a story of character relationships, forgiveness and love. The father/son, mentor/ward relationships found scattered throughout were perfectly portrayed. They weren’t over-emotional, but a blend of banter and teasing: Crispin throwing a spoon at Jack because he can’t handle the praise that he’s a good master; Lancaster almost pushing Crispin off a chair through a teasing shove… It’s not all fun and games, but I read the majority of this book with a grin on my face.

This is the first I’ve read set in this era, so I have no idea about accuracy etc. But what I can say is that this is a gentle, quick read that keeps you hooked and makes you fall in love with the characters. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Now for the rest of the series..!
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I adore this series by Jeri Westerson, and this new entry may in fact be one of my favorites. Crispin Guest and his apprentice Jack Tucker are characters that change and grow throughout, but their essential core of fairness and quest for justice being served remains steadfast. As they track down relics and investigate mysteries and murder, they encounter both new obstacles and people from the past. I especially love the books where John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, makes an appearance, and he makes several in this one. Both this book and the entire series are highly recommended.
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Of rogues and relics!

God's blood! A most favorite medieval oath in Crispin Guest novels. And oh my goodness, a sharp comment on this Crispin novel with surprises around every corner. 
I don't want to give anything away but the encounters dogging Crispin's progress are almost a catalogue of The Tracker's life until now.
Miraculous really!
So Crispin is having a drink at his favorite watering hole, the Boar's Tusk tavern when some unknown fellow leaves a parcel for him with the words, "You'll know what to do with it."
The roughly wrapped bundle is an ancient leather bound book written in an unknown language, although our Crspin has some clue. However as he goes about trying to have this codex deciphered, death dogs those individuals he involves. Powerful enemies are abroad! This relic, shrouded in secrecy, is attracting those who would destroy all knowledge of it. Crispin fears for the life of Jack Tucker's family, now his family. Crispin and Jack have added impetuous for solving the mystery. 
Added to this there seems to be a person abroad presenting himself to Londoners as The Tracker. This cannot be allowed to continue. Crispin's tracker reputation is all he has left and he guards it jealously.
Thinking back to the younger Crispin and contrasting him to the older more thoughtful, even wiser person he now is, rounds out the Crispin we all know and love, even when we are cross with him.
In many ways this story, apart from the mysteries involved, is a catalogue that points towards the emotional healing of Crispin. This more mature Crispin is a soothing balm.
I'm hoping for more resolution in this area in future works.

A Severn House ARC via NetGalley
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I have been a fan of Ms. Westerson’s Crispin Guest series since the first book. The latest book, Traitor’s Codex, continues this fine series. The characters are well developed, the plot lines are amazing and keep us guessing, and the historical details are very interesting. The main characters, Crispin and Jack keep growing. The case involves an ancient book with a major mystery. This book does not disappoint.
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I recently discovered the Tracker series and fell in love with it. This means I had high expectation and they were all met.
I love this historical mystery, its well written and fleshed out characters, the humour, and the well researched historical background.
The plot kept me hooked till the last page and the mystery was very good, full of twists and turns.
I look forward to reading the next installment in this series.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Severn House and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Jeri Westerson involves Crispin Guest in his twelfth investigation in the Traitor's Codex.  In this medieval mystery, Crispin must deal with a gnostic gospel of Judas which is given to him mysteriously.  Three literary experts consulted are murdered. Crispin is asked to find the murderers and harried by those who find the text heretical.  Meanwhile Queen Anne, King Richard's wife, dies and there are court intrigues.  Whodunit?  Intriguing noir story.
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Wow! Is that not the most intriguing blurb ever? That, and the very gorgeous cover, drew me in. And, it didn't even matter that this was the twelfth book in a series, which just proves the quality of the writing.

The story takes place, for the most part, in late 14th century London. Crispin Guest, a former knight is now living in The Shambles with his apprentice Jack Tucker and Jack's young family.

In his role as a tracker now (a detective in modern parlance), Crispin is used to handling odd cases, but not of the sort that is dropped on his table in the Boar's Tusk Tavern. He takes the mysterious parcel home and unwraps it to find an old book written in a language he cannot decipher.

He seeks out those he hopes can identify the book and its language, and while he succeeds in that, the repercussions for those who aid him are fatal. Now he knows the book is a missing Gospel - the Judas Gospel - and one which the Catholic Church deems as "dangerous" and therefore must be destroyed. There are those amongst the shadows who wish to relieve him of the book, but they have seriously underestimated Crispin if they believe he will simply hand it over.

As Crispin endeavours to keep the book safe, in the hope of returning it to its rightful owner, other events - besides those intent on doing him harm if he holds on to the book - distract him. The three men who helped him out earlier are murdered, there's an impostor posing as him and putting his reputation at risk, and he is drawn back into the court of King Richard II when the Queen dies. Having been banished years before, this move puts his life in danger but he cannot stay away.

With all this going on, the author still adds depth to Crispin's life outside of his job. Firstly, with details of his lost love and the young son he cannot acknowledge, then with an insight into his past life at court and his bond with Lancaster, and finally with his acceptance of his current status and the role that Jack and his family play in bringing him peace and joy despite his less affluent lifestyle.

This story comes across as atmospheric and authentic in its historical setting, and compelling and intriguing as a mystery. Despite there being much of Crispin's past that has been dealt with in previous books of the series, this can be read easily as a standalone story. That said, I am sorely tempted to delve into earlier books and learn more of Crispin's fascinating history.

A very different kind of mystery, both enchanting and tense with wonderful, lively characters and a hefty dose of medieval history and setting.
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This is not the first book I have read by this author, but it is the first of the Crispin Guess series. When a stranger leaves a wrapped package on the table where he is drinking his ale with a note that tells him that he will know what to do with it, he knows who to take it to. Crispin realizes that it is ancient and in a language he doesn't understand. He and his apprentice take the Codex to a rabbi who is hidden. What is in this mysterious package? It appears to bet a book from the Gospel of Judas from the Holy Land. It questions the very doctrine of Christianity. He doesn't know who gave  him the book or why but he is now mixed up into a plot with deadly consequences.. It''s not just one problem but it has murder, saints that are still living and murderous henchmen. If this book falls into the wrong hands, it will be disastrous. This is a book that you will not want to put down until you finish it. I will be reading the rest of the series. Well written and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I received this book from Net Galley and Severn House Publishers for a honest review. I voluntarily read this book.
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In 1394 Crispin Guest, Tracker of London, is minding his own business at a local tavern when a strange man hands him a wrapped package and then disappears. The man tells Crispin not to open the package in public and that he will know what to do with it. Crispin hurries home, opens the package and finds a very old book. The cover appears newer, but the pages seem to be extremely old. Stranger still, the text is written in a language Crispin does not recognize. Crispin does have a love for books, so he makes his way to a bookseller for help. The bookseller confirms what Crispin already believes ... newer cover, very old pages made of papyrus. The bookseller thinks the text is written in Coptic and sends Crispin to another man for help. The second man sends Crispin to a barber who is able to translate the book. And what Crispin learns is terribly unsettling, both to him and could also be to the doctrine of the Christian church if this book falls into the wrong hands. It appears this is a copy of the Gospel of Judas. Crispin soon finds himself in the middle of three murders ... the three men he visited with this disturbing book. Being a Tracker, he sets out to find the murderer. But others are interested in this book as well, and Crispin finds himself in peril more than once. Can he track down the killers, and what is he to do with this blasphemous book?

TRAITOR'S CODEX in the eleventh book in Jeri Westerson's A Crispin Guest Mystery series. Though I have not had the pleasure of reading any of the other books in this series, Ms. Westerson does an excellent job of relating the backstory about Crispin and some of his adventures as a Tracker (like a private investigator). There is non-stop action and adventure in this thrilling mystery. Events move in a rapid-fire manner for such a historical time frame. Crispin is a strong main character with a cadre of equally strong and diverse supporting characters. Ms. Westerson ties in just enough actual historical and Biblical reality with this exciting story to keep you turning pages for more.

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It took me a bit to get into 'The Traitor's Codex', not being previously aware of the earlier books in the Crispin Guest series. Crispin used to be a titled noble who fell from grace and was nearly executed for treason. Now, he lives with the common people and his former servant-cum-apprentice and his family as the Tracker of London; righting wrongs, protecting the innocent and, apparently hunting down mysterious artifacts like a medieval, slightly more religious Indiana Jones. It was an interesting enough story, but I probably wouldn't get it for myself or someone else. It's not bad, more just lackluster. 

I was given a free copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The release of a new book in the Crispin Guest series is cause for celebration in my home.  I know that once I sit down with the book, I will have time for little else until I have read the last page.  

As Crispin sits in a tavern with his ale, he is approached by a stranger who hands him a package, requesting that he not open it until he is alone.  The package contains a book in a language that neither Crispin nor his apprentice Jack Tucker can decipher.  When he consults a bookseller he is referred to a scholar and finally to a rabbi who identifies the language as Coptic.  A translation reveals that it is the Judas Gospel.  Ther are those in the church who will do whatever it takes to see this codex destroyed..  Crispin is half tempted to burn it, but the book was entrusted to his care until it can be passed to its’ proper owner.  

John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster who raised Crispin, also asks for his help.  Queen Anne has died suddenly and he needs Crispin to determine if it was a natural death or murder.  Once a knight who was accused with treason and banned from court, his return to Westminster palace could mean his death if he is discovered.  There is also an impostor who has been using his identity as the Tracker of London.  The man is staging rescues and extorting large fees for his services.  Crispin is a man of honor and the impostor must be stopped.  When someone begins killing people connected to the codex, Crispin sends Jack’s wife and children into hiding for their protection.  While his time has been divided between his investigations, his priority is family and finding a solution for th fat of the codex to keep them safe.  

Jeri Westerson makes London in the 1300s come alive.  As Crispin travels the alleys of the Shambles and the corridors of Westminster Palace she evokes the sights and sounds of old London.  This is an example of historical fiction at its best.
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First of all, my thanks to Severn House and NetGalley, who provided a digital ARC in return for my honest opinion.

This is a very well written series, with great character development over the course of 12 titles. We've seen Crispin Guest go from an embittered, impoverished former knight, convicted of treason and yet miraculously NOT executed, to a man largely at peace with his place in the world. Crispin has formed a new family for himself, -- his apprentice, Jack, now a grown man with a wife and children of his own. In The Traitor's Codex, Crispin in once more in temporary possession of a religious object of sorts, the Gospel of Judas. England is in a time of religious upheaval, with a group called Lollards challenging the status quo of the established (Roman Catholic) church, and a possible "new" gospel, especially one contesting the teaching of the existing gospels, is a danger to those who come into contact with it. A very quick read with, to me at least, a satisfactory ending!
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4 stars

Into Crispin Guest's hands falls a very old book, recently re-covered but the pages are written on papyrus. It is the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. It challenges and contradicts (in some ways) the current understanding of Christianity. Crispin suspects that he should destroy the book, but it does not belong to him – and he loves books. What to do?

It is a time of religious upheaval in England. The up and coming Protestants are rallying for followers amongst the citizenry – especially a group called the Lollards. The Catholic Church, and  King Richard, are incensed at what they see as heresy. 

When Crispin is attacked in the street, the tension in an already tense story ratchets up. Then a trail of murdered men follow in Crispin's wake. The people he spoke to about the book are being killed. 

While traveling from place to place in search of the killers of his acquaintances, he and his apprentice Jack solve several and varied crimes. He is ushered into King Richard's presence and accused of a plot to murder Richard's queen. He gets away on the strength of his past friendship with the king. Crispin is finally pressured into promising to turn the book over to a nefarious Bishop. Will he go through with it? Will he sove the mysterious identity of the man who gave him the book? Will he and Jack get out of this sticky situation alive? 

This book is very well written in Jeri Westerson's usual style. The premise is most interesting, especially given the era in which it is set. While perhaps not so controversial in today's world, it was virtually explosive and heretical back then.  Anyone caught in possession of such a book could be burned at the stake. The novel is written in a casual easy-to-read linear style. I enjoy these Crispin Guest novels. Not only are they exciting, but they give the reader a glimpse into life – both the wealthy and the poor – in England at the time. I am awaiting the release of the next Crispin novel.

I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House/Severn House Publishers for forwarding to me a copy of this great book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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This is a wonderful brew of genres—murder mystery and irreverent religious thriller—that is sure to titillate readers in search of A captivating , intelligent theological tale deftly composed 
 And well researched that has both literary action and philosophical stimulation.”
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