Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 6:05 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

‘Blood Royal’: a mystifying murder in medieval Paris

Eric Jager’s new book “Blood Royal” recounts the true story of a murder in medieval Paris, in which the brother of the king is hacked to death and the provost (police chief) of Paris uses interviews and deductive reasoning to try to solve the crime.


The Washington Post

advertising

‘Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris’

by Eric Jager

Little, Brown, 323 pp., $29

To compose a whodunit about real events that transpired six centuries ago takes chutzpah, but it seems to suit Eric Jager, whose previous work, “The Last Duel,” is set in the same era. In “Blood Royal,” Louis of Orleans, the brother of French King Charles VI, is ambushed and hacked to death, an act of lèse-majesté that threatens the stability of the realm. The provost (that is, the police chief) of Paris, a knight named Guillaume de Tignonville, is ordered to solve the crime.

The most interesting aspect of this tale is Tignonville’s systematic investigation of the crime without the aid of fingerprints, video cameras or DNA evidence. We generally associate medieval criminal investigations with torture or trial by combat, but to solve this case Tignonville relied on extensive interviews of witnesses, a few tangible pieces of evidence and deductive reasoning.

There was no shortage of motives. Louis had manipulated the mentally addled king to enrich himself, and he also seduced other men’s wives — a hazardous hobby even in medieval France. By the debased standards of a hard time, his rascality was conspicuous.

In a few fast-paced chapters we come to admire the resourceful Tignonville as he pursues his quarry and fear for him when his prime suspect turns out to be a powerful lord. This is real history, but it is also a murder mystery that fans of Agatha Christie would appreciate, so I will not give the plot away.

The author’s first challenge is to introduce us to a world lit by fire, beset by demons and obsessed with magic. His story segues from a murder mystery to a chronicle of medieval anarchy. This is a fascinating epoch, vividly described in Barbara Tuchman’s erudite and highly readable classic “A Distant Mirror,” which Jager does not cite among his sources. Interested readers should begin with Tuchman before moving on to Jager.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Autos news and research

The 5 top debuts at the L.A. Auto Show

The 5 top debuts at the L.A. Auto Show


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►