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The Invention of Fire: A Novel (Paperback)
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The author of the acclaimed medieval mystery A Burnable Book once again brings fourteenth-century London alive in all its color and detail in this riveting thriller featuring medieval poet and fixer John Gower—a twisty tale rife with intrigue, danger mystery, and murder.
Though he is one of England’s most acclaimed intellectuals, John Gower is no stranger to London’s wretched slums and dark corners, and he knows how to trade on the secrets of the kingdom’s most powerful men. When the bodies of sixteen unknown men are found in a privy, the Sheriff of London seeks Gower’s help. The men’s wounds—ragged holes created by an unknown object—are unlike anything the sheriff’s men have ever seen. Tossed into the sewer, the bodies were meant to be found. Gower believes the men may have been used in an experiment—a test for a fearsome new war weapon his informants call the “handgonne,” claiming it will be the “future of death” if its design can be perfected.
Propelled by questions of his own, Gower turns to courtier and civil servant Geoffrey Chaucer, who is working on some poems about pilgrims that Gower finds rather vulgar. Chaucer thinks he just may know who commissioned this new weapon, an extremely valuable piece of information that some will pay a high price for—and others will kill to conceal. . .
About the Author
Bruce Holsinger is the author of the first John Gower novel, A Burnable Book, and an award-winning scholar of the medieval period who teaches at the University of Virginia. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. www.bruceholsinger.com
“The poet John Gower is the perfect narrator and amateur sleuth. . . . Holsinger’s research, alongside the energetic vulgarity of a language in flux, delivers up a world where even the filth is colorful.” — New York Times Book Review
“[A] skillful and engrossing second medieval whodunit… Holsinger is equally adept at depicting the machinations of the rich and powerful and the fears and hopes of the working class.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This excellent period mystery is narrated in a gloriously earthy language that is, long before Shakespeare and the King James Bible, still in the process of taking shape. Fans of the previous book as well as aficionados of the historical genre won’t be able to put this novel down. ” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Absorbing . . . Gower’s self-deprecating wit and Holsinger’s skillful conjuring of detailed mental images will appeal to fans of C. J. Sansom and Ariana Franklin.” — Booklist
“Authenticity is the hallmark of this world Holsinger so vividly brings to life, and his use of period language and words (wherry, groats) adds another fascinating layer of believability….Holsinger’s medieval mystery featuring two famous writers succeeds on every level and will have readers hoping for more.” — Shelf Awareness
“I was swept along by the quality of the writing and the remarkable wealth of detail; at the end I thought all its pieces came together in a satisfying whole . . . The past rarely comes this splendidly to life.” — Washington Post
“Perhaps the unlikeliest sleuthing duo in literary-thriller history, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, return in Holsinger’s second medieval mystery…What they find has terrible implication for their era - and ours - in this fascinating, bawdy and quite fun book.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Holsinger is a graceful guide to the 14th century, lacing his thriller with just the right seasoning of antique words and all the necessary historical detail without any of the fusty smell of a documentary.” — Washington Post