No one knows when Chaucer died (don't be fooled by the date on his tomb in Westminster Abbey). Despite the immense popularity of Chaucer's poetry during his lifetime and the important offices he held in the court of King Richard II, his name disappears from all public record in the year 1400, with no mention of his death at all. This is odd imagine if Stephen King or John Grisham were to simply disappear without a trace today. Who Murdered Chaucer? A Medieval Mystery, written by Terry Jones with Robert Yeager, Terry Dolan, Alan Fletcher and Juliette Dor, explores Geoffrey Chaucer's mysterious disappearance.
Terry Jones, you ask? Wasn't he one of the guys in Monty Python? He was, but he also happens to be a famed expert on the Middle Ages whose academic work on the period has garnered significant critical acclaim. Who Murdered Chaucer? is not a biography; Jones describes it as "less of a whodunit? than a Wasitdunnatall?" Unlike Ackroyd, Jones delights, much as Chaucer himself did, in stirring the quiet pond of beliefs scholars have accepted for centuries. Jones explores Chaucer's relationship to King Richard II and his successor, Henry IV, as well as Chaucer's vitriolic criticism of the church in The Canterbury Tales, to examine and support the hypothesis that Chaucer's disappearance owes far more to dissident political opinions and a change in regime brought by a usurper king than the fault of time and incomplete record-keeping. Jones is not unbiased; he has clear opinions of people such as Henry IV and Archbishop Arundel, yet these opinions and his controversial conclusions are supported with meticulous research of a myriad of texts from the Middle Ages, ultimately creating a terrific piece of revisionist history that offers a highly plausible explanation for the death of Geoffrey Chaucer. Who Murdered Chaucer? is a riveting and engrossing read for anyone from the medievalist to the average reader seeking entertainment.