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The Clerkenwell Tales Paperback – Jun 1 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (June 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749386304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749386306
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #681,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The Canterbury Tales with a twist Jan. 22 2005
By Ellis Bell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Peter Ackroyd draws on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to tell a tale of suspense and intrigue in late-14th century London. The characters are all Chaucer's, but Ackroyd chooses to display them in a much different light.

In the 14th century, there was much dissention in the church. The advent of the Black Death earlier in the century had changed people's belief systems. While most of England remained Catholic, there were many people who wanted to break away from the Church. One of these groups was the Lollards, declared heretics for their liberal views on religion. In this book, there is a group of people who want to rock the foundations of the church to its core, and the burning of churches in London is ascribed to the Lollards. The fictional story also includes the mad prophesies of a nun called Clarice.

Like the Canterbury Tales, the Clerkenwell Tales have a structure, though the vignettes are in a different order than the original Tales. Ackroyd does a great job of discussing each character in great detail, adding on to what we know of the characters from Chaucer. While Ackroyd does not stick with the genres of the Canterbury Tales (ie fabliau, romance, etc), he does give his reader a peak at another aspect of medieval English life: the mystery plays, or the stories of the Bible as performed by the members of the town's trade guilds. Ackroyd does a fantastic job of pulling bits and peieces of medieval English life together in one coherent whole.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
For the literati, a mighty tasty bit of a tome Oct. 5 2004
By KatPanama - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's 1399; do you know where your Chaucer is? Ackroyd borrows both form and characters but puts them to different tasks. Who knew (I guess I should have) that the Puritan concept (also Presbyterian) of predestination actually had its roots in an intense debate within The Church in the 13th and 14th centuries. Wonderfully written and enjoyable. E.g., Part of the secret tunnels that connected the Clerkenwell cloister to the priory of St. John of Jerusalem now can be seen in the basement of the Marx Memorial Library at 37a Clerkenwell Green, London. Who says history doesn't have a sense of humor?
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
veritable time-travel Sept. 28 2004
By Joaquin Ibarrez - Published on
Format: Hardcover
the author has created a delightful, pensive, historical fiction whose genesis is Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales." This 213-page opus is recommended to all medievalists, early-renaissance lectors and avid readers of English history. If one enjoys "The Canterbury Tales" one should find pleasant satisfaction in this delicious re-creation.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An author well Versed June 20 2007
By Stephen McHenry - Published on
The author displays such thorough knowledge of customs, culture and language of 1399 London as to place the reader directly into the midst of the superstition, bad medicine, medieval law and class struggle during a time when the king Richard II is being overthrown. Religious political forces are at work to frighten the citizenry and further the overthrow. Common folk are caught up or nearly missed as daily lives are written of in the format of the Canterbury Tales (but easier to read, although it is in the English of the period). There is murder, double crossing, simple folk, master deceivers and a touched nun who maybe speaking from God or the Devil.
Entertaining. Certainly excellent for someone with an interest in medieval times and life, London, British history, or murder and political intrigue. At 211 pages or so an easy and satisfying read. After reading this I am inclined to read more of Ackroyd's work.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Small-time PI tackles big-time adversaries July 10 2007
By Gary Coffrin - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have read this book four times in the past two decades. My appreciation has grown with each reading. Andrew Bergman, born in 1945, has fondly captured an earlier time. This book is a grand romp set in America when Dewey is seeking the Republican nomination to stop Roosevelt from gaining a fourth term.

Bergman's Jack Levine is the perfect 'retro-eye.' LeVine is bald and plump, a big guy with a big nose. He is not handsome, but he is witty; not slick, but he is smart. He has plenty of attitude, and his wise-cracks and social commentary hold up well when compared to the best of the earlier pulp writers and even Chandler himself. Levine smokes Luckys, drinks Blatz beer, listens to baseball on the radio, loves attending the fights, and hates to miss reading Dick Tracy. His Manhattan office has a moose head that he uses for a hat rack. The period details feel right.

President Roosevelt's re-election and the shape of a post-war world are at stake when the daughter of an affluent banker (and major backer of Republican Dewey) is being blackmailed. LeVine tracks the shenanigans and accompanying murders directly to FDR's staff. LeVine's job is to protect the reputation of his clients (the banker and his daughter). If the story were to become public, the election would be delivered to the Republicans - something LeVine wants to avoid.

This determined shamus fights to stay alive and goes nose-to-nose with some of the top power brokers in wartime America. The plot and repartee are intelligently crafted. The concluding chapters offer an action-filled chase that is picturesque and credible. The author delivers action and settings that are easily visualized.

This is an strong work that is sure to delight fans of earlier detective fiction. Of the three Jack LeVine mysteries to date, this is by far my favorite.