Meet Casimir FitzDuncan, a resident of the medieval kingdom of Aquileia. A woman has come to him, seeking his assistance in escaping a contract to marry a nobleman with a foul reputation. After their meeting, she is kidnapped not far from his residence. Caz is accused of abducting her and forced to investigate her disappearance. Aided by his friend Freddy, Lord Rawlinsford, and Freddy's mysterious cousin Lucy, Caz works to find the kidnapper. The closer he gets to finding the truth, the more tangled he is in a web designed specifically to trap him
Historical mystery readers will find FitzDuncan is set in medieval times and tells of P.I. Casimir FitzDuncan, whose latest case revolves around a woman seeking to escape an oppressive marriage contract with man who holds a reputation for abuse.
After their initial meeting, she is kidnapped, prompting FitzDuncan to embark on both a mission to recover her and an effort to clear his own reputation, called into question since he was the last person to see her.
When the story opens, however, it's FitzDuncan who has been abducted, awakening in prison with a knot on his head and his quasi-friend Sir Oliver (Ollie) grilling him about the whereabouts of Miss Julienne Traval.
One satisfying feature of this story is that FitzDuncan operates on both sides of the law. Neither good nor bad guy entirely, his reputation for both brings with it a murky set of objectives and influences that cause many to doubt his word and intentions.
Despite his ancestry (he's the eldest son of Duncan Barry, Earl of the Eastern March), FitzDuncan goes his own way and has developed a wry sense of propriety and impropriety that often lands him in trouble as well as lending him a reputation for fact-finding savvy.
Both get him into dire straits in this story, which excels in presenting a flawed hero who doesn't always make the right choices.
As the tale progresses, John J. Spearman deftly juxtaposes history, fiction, and P.I. investigative tactics in a multifaceted story designed to please a diverse audience, whether they originate from historical interests or choose the story for its investigative mystery components.
It's no light task to represent medieval politics, culture, and people in such a way that all come to life; especially for readers who may be unversed in this era. Spearman accomplishes both while viewing events from the first-person perspective of FitzDuncan, which lends a personal and immediate tone to the world around him and his choices.
As the mystery evolves, a surprise is embedded when FitzDuncan discovers that the target of the kidnapper isn't actually obvious at all.
From the political conundrums he faces on who to trust and who is dangerous to his pursuit of a dangerous force steeped in deadly rituals, FitzDuncan interacts with royalty and dark forces alike.
His pursuit of a questionable truth and elusive justice is especially well written in the first person and presented through his encounters with friends, superiors, and those who confront him: "I thought quickly. “Your Majesty, I have prayed that you would listen to what I have to say with an open mind. Your willingness to dismiss your son from our meeting gives me hope that you will. I must also beg for your patience since it will take time for me to explain to you what I know. As for my innocence or guilt, I requested the King’s Justice. That will be for you to decide.”
Spearman does more than provide mystery readers with a detailed investigative probe. By setting his character in medieval times and thoroughly immersing him in the politics and processes of this era, he brings history to life, personalizing it with a first-person observational style that requires no prior familiarity with history in order to prove accessible.
The only prerequisite to enjoying this story is an interest in problem-solving and a rollicking good read that romps through cultural norms and politics, turning them on end as FitzDuncan struggles to arrive at the truth even as his beliefs get in the way of reality.
History and mystery collections alike should select the well-detailed FitzDuncan as a crossover title appealing to a broader audience than either genre alone.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
In FitzDuncan, written by John Spearman, we follow the protagonist, Casimir FitzDuncan (aka Caz), as he investigates the disappearance of Miss Julienne Traval, the daughter of Herbert Traval, a very wealthy merchant trader. Julienne is engaged to marry Bergeron, the Viscount du Pais, who is currently penniless; her fiancé has a terrible reputation, but he is very well connected and a close acquaintance of the Crown Prince, Albert. Throughout the book, Caz, with the invaluable help of his close friend Freddy (Lord Rawlinsford) and an acquaintance of Freddy's who is well-versed in the dark arts (Lucille Austermain, aka Lucy), dives into the mystery of Julienne’s kidnapping.
As the story begins, Sir Oliver, the Principal of the City Watch (constabulary and fire protection services combined) came to see Caz about Julienne’s disappearance, for he was the last person she saw. Caz suspects that Bergeron kidnapped Julienne to perform a black magic ritual. The plot thickens when Caz gets falsely accused of kidnapping Julienne, but no spoilers are allowed!
There are several positives worth mentioning in this entertaining read. For starters, the plot is imaginative and well-woven. In just four days, the obstinate protagonist has to surmount unimaginable obstacles, which include escaping violent thugs and a sojourn in prison, among other things. I thought that the mystery plot was the book’s strongest suit; it was what I liked the most. I also appreciated the author’s writing style; I thought it was vivid and rich. I felt transported the story’s ambiance of castles, nobility, and swords.
Additionally, the characters are multidimensional and well-developed. Caz is a markedly likable protagonist, and I found myself rooting for him, which I enjoyed. He’s not your usual hero, for he makes money helping people in difficult situations by recovering valuables where other (legal) forms of recovery are unavailable. Still, he is a lovely man with a big heart, and the author develops his nuanced personality beautifully. I also liked the author’s portrayal of Lucy, as well as her romantic involvement with Caz, which the author weaves with subtlety. I felt that Lucy's knowledge of the black arts brought a nice touch to the story.
In closing, I rate FitzDuncan 4 out of 4 stars. It is an imaginative and charming mystery story that I enjoyed reading, and there was nothing I disliked about it. The book seemed professionally edited, for I found no errors in it. I believe it will appeal to readers who enjoy mystery stories. However, it may hold less appeal to those who dislike magical elements.
Reviewed By Edith Wairimu for Readers’ Favorite
In John J Spearman’s enthralling mystery novel, FitzDuncan, the illegitimate son of an Earl sets out to solve a perplexing mystery that could cost him his life. Unlike other members of the nobility in the kingdom of Aquileia, Casimir “Caz” FitzDuncan has to fend for himself. After serving in the army for seven years, he returns to the kingdom’s capital. Freddy, a friend from school, requests his help in exposing a swindler and winning back his ring which Freddy had lost in a game of cards. After he successfully gains it back, Freddy refers other people who need similar help to Caz. A young woman approaches him to help her flee from a forced marriage. Soon after, she is abducted and Caz is held responsible for her disappearance. Caz and Freddy follow her trail, hoping to find the real kidnapper and clear Caz of the crime.
FitzDuncan by John J Spearman features original, interesting characters with fascinating stories. Despite Caz’s lower social status in being an illegitimate son, Freddy, who belongs to the aristocracy, befriends him. The two become close friends together with Lucy, Freddy’s eccentric cousin. Some romance is included in the plot which adds emotional depth and suspense to the story. Amidst his investigation of the kidnapping, Caz falls for Lucy who practices magic. Lucy’s abilities add other fascinating elements to the novel. The investigation is also thrilling as it is not straightforward. Caz, Lucy, and Freddy unravel more revelations in their quest to find the abducted woman. FitzDuncan by John J Spearman is a mystery novel with unexpected twists and engaging characters. It is a treat for fans of mystery stories set in the medieval period.