The Saltergate Psalter

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Carol McGrath

The Saltergate Psalter is an engaging medieval mystery and a sequel to Chris Nickson’s excellent The Crooked Spire. Set in the latter half of the 14th century, it continues Nickson’s protagonist John Carpenter’s story. John is now married, soon to become a father. He is yet again called upon by the town coroner to use his intuitive powers to solve another crime in medieval Chesterfield when an elderly man is murdered in his bed and a magnificent psalter has gone missing.

Nothing is as it seems. The reader is led by the nose along blind alleys filled with nasty medieval villains only to find yet another dangerous route opening as information changes and deaths occur. The key to solving this crime lies with the missing exquisitely described psalter.

Nickson presents rounded medieval characterisation, in particular that of John and his young wife. His wife’s siblings, her aunt, and the coroner, whilst less complex, also draw us into moments of their daily life. We care about them all, especially when John’s own family is threatened. Sharp dialogue moves this fast-paced story forward to its conclusion, whilst presenting an emotional pulse to the characters’ relationships. Nickson is a master at painting a vivid picture of a small town in the late 14th century, his descriptions convincing and succinct. I walked amongst Chesterfield’s inhabitants as a fly on the town walls thanks to meticulously researched town and family life details, all flawlessly integrated into the plot – whether it is John’s house with its buttery and garden, or his purchase of a new pair of boots. If you enjoy reading well-written, page-turning historical thrillers, this one is for you.