The authors admit at the outset that they are not even sure if Chaucer was murdered. But they use the question to probe the political and cultural milieu of the late 14th century. In the process they convincingly destroy the myth of Henry Bollingbroke’s popular and bloodless coup against Richard II and instead show it up for the illegal, sanguinary and repressive affair that it was. In this context the authors show that it is at least plausible that Chaucer, the court poet and political follower of Richard, did not die peacefully, particularly given the emnity that he earned from his lambasting IN ENGLISH of the corruption in the Church in Canterbury Tales. They also construct a compelling circumstantial case against the likely culprit.
Along the way the authors provide a useful introduction to the Canterbury Tales themselves and the importance of Chaucer as both a poet and a proponent of the English language.
One slightly irritating feature of the book is its peppering with Jones’ jokes. No doubt someone thought that this would be expected by readers. However this is ill judged. The book can stand on its own as a piece of historical and literary research and it doesn’t need the jokes to carry the reader forward: The argument does this on its own… And the jokes are not very good.
This quibble aside it is a fine book and a worthy companion piece to Terry Jones’ Chaucer’s Knight.