The Dead Don’t Wait (A Bloody Mary Mystery)
This is Book Four of the Bloody Mary mysteries. In 16th-century London, Mary Tudor is on the throne and has re-instated Catholicism. Catholic priests who became Protestant under Edward VI and were allowed to marry must renounce their wives and children and return to clerical celibacy.
Jack Blackjack is a former thief, now employed as an assassin. He carouses cynically through an unsavory, alcohol-soaked London filled with violent crime, cruelty, squalor, and vice. When a formerly married priest is found dead in a village just east of town, the game is on. Jack and the coroner, Sir Richard of Bath, try to find the murderer among an assortment of unappealing characters. Meanwhile, Jack is extorted for ever-increasing amounts of money by the vicious usurers Arch and Hamon. The ingenious plot becomes increasingly complex, but after uncovering issues of incest and exhuming a corpse from a shallow grave, Jack figures things out.
This is a coarse, vulgar story that starts with animal cruelty and runs through scenes of Jack getting drunk, Jack being beaten, Jack sitting on the latrine, and Jack enduring hangovers. I grew tired of the endless referrals to his codpiece and what was inside it, his disrespectful attitude toward women, and the constant, graphic violence. I gather that Jack is supposed to be a comical, roguish anti-hero, but the never-ending crudeness is not funny. This was my first encounter with Jack Blackjack, and it will be my last, although other series by this multi-published author are well-reviewed.