A Choir of Crows

a choir of crows 1

December, 1374. With the great and the good about to descend on York for the enthronement of Alexander Neville as the new archbishop, the city authorities are in a state of high alert. When two bodies are discovered in the grounds of York Minster, and a flaxen-haired youth with the voice of an angel is found locked in the chapter house, Owen Archer, captain of the city bailiffs, is summoned to investigate.

Tension deepens when an enigmatic figure from Owen’s past arrives in the city. Why has he returned from France after all these years – and what is his connection with the bodies in the minster yard and the fair singer?

Before Owen can make headway in the investigation, a third body is fished out of the river – and the captain finds himself with three mysterious deaths to solve before the all-powerful Neville family arrives in York.


“Robb once again effectively blends crime with the politics of 14th-century England.” Publishers Weekly

“In the winter of 1374, a new archbishop, about to be enthroned in York, brings with him disharmony and death… in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with the powerful Neville family…  sure to please fans of historical mysteries.” Kirkus

On Goodreads:

“As usual Candace Robb has crafted a wonderful story, rich in detail about the time and place where the deaths occurred. I felt like I was there in the mess of melting snow in the lanes, and the chill of the stone rooms. I also felt I could see and feel the two small leather-bound books that seem key to the mystery.”

Candace Robb never fails to deliver gripping and entertaining books.”

When John Thoresby died I wondered if Owen’s and Lucie’s and Magda’s arc would be complete. No, in fact, with Choir of Crows, Candace Robb takes us further into the intricacy of life in medieval York. The characters evolve, and history has given Robb a treasure trove of antagonist possibilities with the ascendency of the Nevilles. I look forward to the next book. (I know, this just came out, but I want to see what happens next.)

This particular series ensnares me. After I finished this one I couldn’t imagine switching worlds to read another book however good it might be. These books feel like reality. I have trouble believing the non-historical characters are fictional.

And a lovely 5 star review on the blog Reading Reality:

“By some reckonings, the events in A Choir of Crows take place during the “Little Ice Age”, the era in European history that spawned the sumptuous costumes that we associate with Renaissance Faires today. Because it was just so damn cold. You can practically hear the icy winds of December, 1374 whistling through this story. The chill actually feels pretty good in this strange summer of 2020. It’s already hot down here. But I came to this story not for its bracing weather, but because I got into a mood for historical fiction and mysteries, and this series always satisfies that particular itch.

“Like the best of its kind, the Owen Archer series takes place during a time of great upheaval, and it mixes its search for whodunnit with insight into why it was done – or why it was covered up – and who is playing politics with whom and to what ends as Captain Owen Archer investigates a series of murders in his city while the worthies of the entire country descend upon York for the investiture of its new Archbishop.

“Who is a much lesser man than the one he replaces. A man who is very much beholden to and under the heavy thumb of one of the most ambitious lords of the entire kingdom – his older brother, Sir John Neville, Baron of Raby. The Nevilles were one of the great families of Northern England, and they rose to become kingmakers during the Wars of the Roses.

“This series is set at what will be the foundation of those Wars, as King Edward III is old and infirm, his oldest son and heir, The Black Prince, is young but struck down by disease, and the crown will become a prize in the squabbles between alternate heirs, sons, grandsons and even great-grandsons of Edward III in the mid-1400s.

“But that is in the future. In the present, Owen Archer has a mess on his hands. Three men are dead. His assistant has discovered a young woman, disguised as a young man, at the site of two of the deaths. One might have been by misadventure but the other was certainly murder. The murdered man was a clergyman, he died within the precincts of York Minster, the Archbishop has not yet been invested in his throne – not that anyone believes he will know how to deal with this problem – unlike his predecessor.

“There is a vacuum in authority, but a desperate need to put the entire situation behind them before the archbishop and his party – particularly his powerful brother – arrive on the scene to force a solution. One that suits them rather than any truth.

“Owen is under pressure to solve the crimes and protect the young woman who seems to be at the heart of the mess while still being a victim of it. And to keep his family and friends safe from the power struggle yet to come.

“Because Owen is not merely the Captain of the City Watch. He’s also The Black Prince’s right hand man in York – making the Nevilles his enemies – quite possibly of the deadly variety.

I absolutely adore this series…at its heart is a good man determined to see justice served, protect his family, his friends and his city to the best of his ability, and to keep his word and his oaths. And that’s a story well worth reading, whether it takes place in this or any other era.

“A few years ago, after the story in A Vigil of Spies, it felt like this series was coming to an end. While it would have been a fitting ending, I was pleased as Punch to see Owen return in A Conspiracy of Wolves. And I hope to see MANY further adventures in this well-written, thoroughly researched and utterly compelling series.”

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