Cover image for The Saint John's fern : a Roger the Chapman medieval mystery
The Saint John's fern : a Roger the Chapman medieval mystery
Sedley, Kate.
Personal Author:
First St. Martin's Minotaur edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2002.

Physical Description:
246 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
First published in Great Britain: 1999.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



It is October 1477 and Roger the Chapman, newly married and still enjoying wedded bliss, is surprised to find his old, familiar feeling of restlessness returning. Within a month he is setting off, once again, on the ancient ridge road that dissects Dartmoor and heads for Plymouth, driven by some instinct that he is needed there.

Roger accepts a lift from a carter who is going to visit his daughter, Joanna, in the oldest part of the city. Roger's instinct is soon proven correct when Joanna tells the story of her neighbor, Master Capstick, who was brutally beaten to death. The chief suspect is Capstick's great-nephew, Beric. Master Capstick's housekeeper saw Beric leaving the house that morning, his tunic stained with blood, and many more people saw the young man's wild ride for home on his great black horse. When the King's men arrived at Beric's manor house, though, the horse was already in the stables-and Beric had somehow managed to vanish completely.

The local people, quick to fall back on the witchcraft of their ancestors, blame the Saint John's fern, which if eaten can make a man invisible. Roger, already responsible for solving many difficult mysteries, suspects that there is a more obvious answer and begins his own inquiries. Roger notices that he is not the first to approach witnesses, and when an attempt is made on his life, Roger knows he must be close to a truth that is even more extraordinary than the superstition - if only he can live to tell it.

Author Notes

Kate Sedley , a student of Anglo-Saxon and medieval history, lives in England. She is married and has a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren. The Saint John's Fern is the ninth novel in her critically acclaimed series featuring Roger the Chapman.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Unable to resist the lure of the open road, recently married itinerant peddler Roger Chapman sets off for Plymouth to market his wares. Before long, Roger finds himself involved in investigating the brutal murder of a prominent local businessman. Since the primary suspect has apparently vanished without a trace, the neighbors are convinced that witchcraft is involved. Though possessing a healthy respect for native superstitions, Roger decides to pursue a more straightforward course. Utilizing his considerable skills of detection, he uncovers an unsavory plot hatched by a sister involved in an illicit relationship to frame her brother for the murder of their uncle. Another intelligent installment in a superbly crafted series of medieval mysteries that rival the best of Ellis Peters. Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

British author Sedley (The Weavers Inheritance; The Goldsmiths Daughter; etc.) offers a vivid picture of day-to-day life and politics in 15th-century England in her latest mystery featuring her peripatetic peddler and part-time sleuth, Roger the Chapman. Despite being recently and happily married to his second wife, Adela, Roger feels his old, familiar restlessness and sets off in October of 1477 for Plymouth, where he learns of the murder of Oliver Capstick, an elderly recluse bludgeoned to death in his bed. Master Capstick, a wealthy tradesman, held the purse strings for a profligate great-nephew, Beric Gifford, who is the prime suspect because of his fiery temper and his refusal to marry his uncles choice. Beric seems to have disappeared after eating the leaves of the Saint Johns fern, which certain superstitious souls believe made him invisible. Reports of Berics being spotted pique Rogers curiosity and prompt him to investigate. Complications ensue when Roger becomes the scapegoat for a second murder and he must help exonerate one of his new friends. A great, black brute of a horse, a swineherd and his mettlesome, obstinate pigs loom large in his wanderings, while a signet ring and a velvet hat provide important clues. A well-laid if drawn-out plot builds to a logical if incongruous ending that should please the faithful and even win a few new converts. (Aug. 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved