Little, Brown, Mar 2003, 27.95, 457 pp.
In 1096, French innkeeper Hugh de Luc joins the Crusades in an effort to obtain his freedom from his nasty overlord Lord Baldwin. However, he finds the war not to be anything like he expected as he witnesses atrocities on both sides as they crazily trek for seemingly endless miles towards Jerusalem with no end in sight. Unable to cope, Hugh deserts.
He returns home with some treasures he took from the Holy Land only to learn that Baldwin abducted his beloved wife and murdered his son. Wanting to liberate his spouse and avenge his child's murder, Hugh masquerades as a JESTER to gain entrance into his enemy's castle. However, he meets a noblewoman, who he begins to love, which sidetracks Hugh from his quest. Meanwhile his foe seeks him out based on a rumor that Hugh brought back the holiest of relics. As his village is ravaged by Baldwin's thugs who search for him, Hugh starts a counterrevolution to destroy the noble or die trying.
JESTER is entertaining very colorful historical fiction ale that vividly brings to life the late eleventh century. The tale strips away the romanticizing of the Crusades, laying bare a vicious war. The characters engage the audience whether they are an everyman like Hugh forced into heroics or a vile villain like Baldwin. James Patterson's myriad of fans and anyone who appreciates an enjoyable medieval tale will want to read this delightful novel co-authored with Andrew Gross (see SECOND CHANCE).
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner