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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 December 2006
Bernard Knight, or to give him his correct title, Professor Bernard Knight, CBE, was a pathologist to the Home office until 1980 when he was appointed Professor of Forensic Pathology at the University of Wales College of medicine, 1980. He has written the extremely successful Crowner John series of medieval mysteries, of which there are now ten or eleven books, His character Crowner John is certainly among my favourite characters in medieval mysteries.

Exeter, 1195. Sir John de Wolfe is facing the wrath of the wife of one of Exeter's most prominent citizens. He has refused to hold an inquest on a prominent burgess and guild-master. The man had fallen dead across his horse's saddle, but this happened in front of witnesses and the man had recently been complaining of chest pains, plus there was no sign of injury on the body. However events take a turn when a straw doll with a spike through its heart is found under the saddle cloth of the dead man.

The dead man's wife is adamant that a spell had been cast upon her husband. A spell put on him at the behest of one of his business rivals who wants to acquire his business. With the help of her cousin, who happens to be a canon at the cathedral she begins a campaign in the name of mother church against witchcraft and the women in the town who are thought to practice the black arts. Sir John refuses to be drawn into the campaign, until, that is Nesta, his young Welsh mistress is accused of witchcraft. The only way Crowner John can save her is by finding the real culprit before the noose slips around Nesta's beautiful neck.
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The perfect companion for all history enthusiasts is the ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKER Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Sir John de Wolfe went crusading with Richard the Lionheart. Now back in England, he has been appointed to the newly reconstituted office of Crowner (Coroner). He fights a pitched battle with his corrupt, treacherous brother-in-law, the Sheriff, over official territory. He is very unhappily married to Mathilda, his incompatible wife; their relationship makes sleeping in peasant huts while on duty a treat. One of the things that makes it interesting, is that although Sir John is the central character, and presumably to be regarded with sympathy, his marital problems are not entirely blamed upon his wife.

John is assisted in his duties by his gigantic man of arms, and his clerk, a frail, defrocked priest.

In this book, a sudden death is considered natural by Sir John, but the widow is convinced that it is the result of witchcraft. An amoral apothecary, eager to put herbal healers out of the competition, joins with her to whip up public controversy. There are signs of an attempted curse, but does a true Christian believe that things really are possible?

I find these books fascinating as living history, perhaps even more than as mysteries. Knight always starts off with a glossary of terms. The period is not romanticised, but neither is it overly repulsive.
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on 7 March 2009
The Witch Hunter (Crowner John Mysteries)

I really enjoy Bernard Knight's writing. Bernard is an excellent story teller, adding authenticity where able in relation to history and historical events.

I have just completed, The Witch Hunter, a brilliant book. There is an error on page 336 where a cadaver has died of a wound to his stomach but it is written as a wound to his chest, then rectified in the following paragraph.

I find the series facinating and I glean snippets of information, which form a part of personal education from facts given. For example, the exchequer was derived from people using a checked cloth to count coins, as very few people were able to read.

Each book replicates information so a reader who starts say with The Witch Hunter, knows background information of the series. This can be tedious with an avid reader of the Crowner series and needs to be dismissed, as this does not stop a good story.

I have bought the full series to date and organised them into the right order for reading. I liken these books to a Winter evening, when there is a high wind and snow, I sit by my open fire and snuggle down warm to read a comforting story that transports my imagination back to the late twelth century. Brilliant, very few experiences can over ride this experience.

Happy reading
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I have enjoyed the previous seven books in the Crowner John series. Number eight, 'The Witch Hunter' is good, but I felt too many pages were given over to recap previous events.
I understand why this has to be, each book being a standalone, and new readers having to be informed of how previous events impact on the story. But eight books in, it is unavoidable annoyance.
That aside, this is a good story. The characters are strong and believable and given the witch trials in Britain and America, the storyline rings very true.
The author skilfully guides the readers sympathy towards the 'cunning women', those who deal in herb lore and to some extent 'magic', who are persecuted by the church. There is some fanciful stuff toward the end, but it doesn't detract from the overall story.
The sub plot is Crowner's brother in law, the Sheriff.
Fans of Robin Hood know no Sheriff is good and Richard de Revelle is no different. Scheming, money grabbing and generally amoral and a pain in Crowner's butt. Will he get his just dessert this time? Buy the book and find out!
If you have the read the previous novels, this one is a good exciting read and continues in the 'tradition' of the previous seven.
If you're a first time reader, Bernard Knights take on Medieval life is slightly different from other medieval novelist I have read, but I'm sure you won't be disappointed with this.
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Convinced witchcraft killed her rich husband, Cecilia shrilly demands immediate action. Cousin Canon Gilbert de Bosco is only too happy to oblige - a chance to be noticed by superiors and rise up the ranks. Fiery sermons whip up fear and frenzy, events in Exeter rapidly getting out of hand. Crowner John does his best to control, as always thwarted by villainous brother-in-law Sheriff Richard de Revelle (who is secretly helping stoke up the terror).

Easily one of the best in the series so far, this eighth novel has much impact: innocent healers hounded by mobs; a major calamity which will dismay fans; a long overdue reckoning that will please many very much. There is even a touch of the supernatural, a dramatic climax that may seem far-fetched but which immensely satisfies.

Newcomers may be put off a little by lengthy explanations about political, legal and religious procedures. Others appreciate these as major assets. Result? A detailed social history of 1195 Devon acting as background to intriguing murder mysteries. Authenticity stems from painstaking research. It may surprise that most of the major characters (including the Sheriff) actually existed.

Impressive.
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2013
Although I live near Exeter and know all or most of the places mentioned in Bernard Knight's "The Witch Hunter", I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of the Crowner John series of books set in Devon at the end of the Twelfth century until I bought this particular book last week. It is very entertaining and full of detail about the time and the place and the characters involved in the story. The character of Sir John de Wolfe, the County Coroner, is highly sympathetic and so are the personalities of his immediate officials and his friends. The book is thoroughly well written, by which I mean it is highly readable, literate and imaginatively resourceful. I shall be on to the other books in the series without delay. Highly recommended.
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on 4 August 2010
A real insight into how corruption amongst officials and members of the public promoted and sustained the tragic events surrounding witchcraft in the middle ages. What wonderful story telling. Bernard Knight is a master of his craft.
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on 26 June 2012
Thoroughly enjoyed this mystery novel The author certainly takes you back into the time that the novel was set in. I was lost in the story from begining to the end.
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on 24 January 2005
I have read all of Bernard Knight's book's. I've just finished reading the witch hunter and I think it was his best so far. He has a wonderful way of bringing the past. Just brilliant!! Read it, you won't be disappointed!!!!
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on 30 November 2012
I don't know how I missed writing a review on this one. It is like all of Knight's work ... a great read! I am a collector of all of Knight's work to include titles under the pseudonym of Picton (old). The really great news, other than this is a good read, is that for Crowner John fans (and new readers), there is a new title, a prequel to the series, just released (OCT 2012) titled "Crowner's Crusade" I would give it 6 stars but Amazon doesn't permit that.
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