Oswald the Thief: A Medieval Caper

Written by Jeri Westerson
Review by Fiona Alison

Aptly subtitled ‘A Medieval Caper’, Jeri Westerson’s new novel is a comical romp through early 14th-century London, centering on a heist to steal the crown jewels. Oswald is a handsome, likeable rogue, a tinker by trade, a thief and trickster and incorrigible ladies’ man. Fresh from the warm bed of a servant in the house of the wealthy Percy de Mandeville, Oswald heads to the solar to steal the lord’s treasure. When complications arise—a weighted, moving staircase, not to mention household guards—our intrepid thief leaves empty-handed, narrowly escaping capture by jumping from an upper-floor window and landing next to a body lying in the manor grounds. Shortly thereafter, de Mandeville (who claims he’s the Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe), pays Oswald a visit, accuses him of thievery and murder, and offers protection (and a small percentage) if Oswald steals the crown jewels for him. Backed into a corner by the conniving gentleman, our hero faces a conundrum: how to carry out an impossible theft whilst proving de Mandeville committed the murder himself.

Along with Oswald’s best friend, Geoff, a bit soft in the head, but the best lock picker in all England; a wool merchant; a brawny blacksmith; a beautiful widow; and a devious alchemist—the game is on! But the Tower of London is heavily fortified, has formidable forty-foot walls, gates, portcullises, deadly traps, and double-sets of doors with double-sets of locks. How will a simple country lad from an obscure Welsh village accomplish his mission, and if he doesn’t, how will he avoid the hangman’s noose? An enjoyable, humorous, and diverting read with an unexpected twist, and worthy of a sequel.