The Green Man

The Green Man by Kate Sedley. When your main character is a chapman, a pedlar traveling alone along the roads of the 15th century English countryside, it can be difficult to develop recurring secondary characters. However, during the long run of the Roger the Chapman series, Sedley has managed to bring to life Roger’s second wife, Adela, who somehow manages the household with three noisy children despite Roger’s frequent and long absences and rather variable income. There’s also the irascible Margaret Walker, Roger’s mother-in-law from his first marriage and Adela’s cousin. With Roger as not only the principal player in these chronicles, but also its narrator, the two strong female presences act as a counter-balance as times.

Therefore, it is disappointing to leave them behind so early in this story as Roger heads north to Scotland as personal bodyguard to the Scottish Duke of Albany as he attempts to overthrow his brother King James with the help of the English Duke Richard of Gloucester. Albany is supposedly fearful of assassins, agents of either his brother or the English themselves and has asked specifically for Roger to protect him. As the trip progresses, Roger suspects that the Duke is not really in much danger and begins to question his real reason to be present on the journey. Upon arrival in Edinburgh, they discover that the political landscape has changed, necessitating a new plan of action for all those involved, including Roger.

This is not Sedley’s best work. The loss of Adela and Margaret is not made up by the extended presence of Albany and the other members of his entourage are not captivating. There is also a sub-plot with very little connection to the main action in which Albany has Roger investigate the arrest of one of his allies, a crime which Roger solves quite easily in less than twenty-four hours. The main mystery is not sufficiently complex and is also too easily resolved. Sedley has been able in the past to keep the quality of this series at a high level, but this chronicle misses the mark.


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