For the fans of Ellis Peters, SJ Parris, and Bernard Cornwell.
What is the Owen Archer series about?
Coming from American historical novelist Candace Robb, The Owen Archer series is about a crime-solving ex-soldier in medieval England.
The story began in the year of our Lord 1363 and follows one-eyed spy Owen Archer, a disillusioned soldier keen to make a fresh start, as he works for archbishop Thoresby to solve murder mysteries.
His herbalist wife, the former Lucie Wilton, often helps him solve those mysteries as he met well-known figures of his time.
How to read Owen Archer Books in Order?
Every book in the Owen Archer series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The Apothecary Rose (1993)
- The Lady Chapel (1994)
- The Nun’s Tale (1995)
- The King’s Bishop (1996)
- The Riddle of St. Leonard’s (1997)
- A Gift of Sanctuary (1998)
- A Spy for the Redeemer (2002)
- The Cross-Legged Knight (2002)
- The Guilt of Innocents (2007)
- A Vigil of Spies (2008)
- “The Bone Jar” (short story, 2016)
- A Conspiracy of Wolves (2019)
- A Choir of Crows (2020)
- The Riverwoman’s Dragon (2021)
- A Fox in the Fold (2022)
What is the plot of the Owen Archer stories?
For more information about the books in the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb, you’ll find below the official synopsis for all the books:
The Apothecary Rose – York: 1363: people are dying in mysterious circumstances…however, there seems to be a common thread – the herbal remedies dispensed by Nicholas Wilton, Master Apothecary. The first victim is an anonymous pilgrim, but when a highborn nobleman dies after taking the same potion the authorities finally decide to act. Dispatched to York, in disguise, to unravel the mystery, Owen Archer, former Captain of Archers, apprentices himself to the Apothecary. Yet it is from Wilton’s beautiful wife Lucie that he must learn the arcane secrets of the trade.
The Lady Chapel – York 1365: While the city celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, a man is murdered in the shadow of the Minster, his right hand severed. All the evidence points to a wool merchant last seen quarreling with the dead man. Owen Archer finds himself once again called upon by Archbishop Thoresby to exercise his skills as a detective.
The Nun’s Tale – When a young nun, Joanna Calverley, dies of a fever in the town of Beverley, they waste no time burying her, fearing the plague. But nine months later a woman turns up claiming to be Joanna, saying she faked her own death. When murder follows close on her heels, John Thoresby, Archbishop of York, knows he must enlist the help of his favorite detective, Owen Archer.
The King’s Bishop – March 1367: King Edward is impatient. He wants William of Wykeham confirmed as Bishop of Winchester, but Pope Urban V is stalling, deterred by the man’s wealth and political ambition. Thus Owen Archer finds himself heading a deputation from York to Fountains Abbey, to win support for Wykeham from the powerful Cistercian abbots. Ignoring the advice, he places his old comrade Ned Townley in charge of the fellow company to Rievaulx, hoping to dispel rumors of Ned’s involvement in a mysterious death.
The Riddle of St. Leonard’s – Anno Domini 1369. The much loved Queen Philippa lies dying at Windsor, and the plague has returned to the city of York. In an atmosphere of fear and superstition, rumors spread that a spate of deaths at St Leonard’s Hospital in York is no accident. The hospital is in debt and has suffered thefts: Sir Richard de Ravenser, Master of the Hospital, returns from Winchester painfully aware that scandal could ruin his own career. Anxious to avert a crisis, he requests the services of Owen Archer, a spy for the Archbishop.
A Gift of Sanctuary – Through the wet spring of 1369, a pilgrimage wends its way to the sacred city of St David’s. Owen Archer accompanies the party to recruit archers for the Duke of Lancaster, who prepares to fight the French. But he and Geoffrey Chaucer have another, covert, mission: to ascertain whether the Duke’s steward at Cydweli is betraying him to Welsh rebels.
A Spy for the Redeemer – Late spring, the year of our Lord 1370. Owen Archer, ex-soldier and spy, is preparing to depart Wales, his work for John of Gaunt completed. But his attempts to arrange safe passage home to York are thwarted by a mysterious suicide. In York, Lucie Wilton is disheartened by her husband’s long absence and concerned by allegations against her apothecary. Then Brother Michaelo brings upsetting news, forcing her to journey to her father’s manor outside the city. Increasingly desperate, she accepts the company of a stranger, who proves invaluable when they face danger.
The Cross-Legged Knight – England 1371: a solemn convoy wends its way into York. William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, is bringing home the remains of Sir Ranulf Pagnell, patriarch of a powerful local family, who has died in France. But the family hold the bishop responsible for Sir Ranulf’s death, and ill feeling surrounds his arrival. An accident on the grounds of York Minster nearly kills the bishop. Then, only a few days after, his townhouse is found ablaze. When the body of a young woman is discovered in the undercroft of the house, scandal threatens to destroy Wykeham. The Archbishop of York, John Thoresby, asks Owen Archer for his help.
The Guilt of Innocents – Winter 1372, York: A man has drowned in the River Ouse. It soon becomes clear that his death was not an accident. But why would anyone want to kill a humble river pilot? As the crowds around the murdered man thicken, one-eyed spy Owen Archer is quickly brought to the scene by his adoptive son, Jasper. Renowned for solving many crimes, Owen is immediately drawn into the case.
A Vigil of Spies – York, 1373: John Thoresby, the Archbishop of York, lies dying. Owen Archer is determined to ensure that his lord’s last days are as peaceful as possible, but his plans are thrown into disarray when Thoresby agrees to a visit from Joan, Princess of Wales, wife of the Black Prince and mother of the young heir to the throne of England. Owen resolves to do his duty, but within minutes of Joan’s arrival, things go disastrously wrong when a member of the royal party is murdered.
“The Bone Jar” (short story) – Magda the Riverwoman has called Owen Archer to her island hut in the middle of the River Ouse with a special favor-to guard a jar of human bones. No one in York is greedier than the relic dealers, the insatiable charlatans who sell flesh and bone as miracle cures, but Magda will not sell the remains at any price. Instead, she asks Owen to protect the jar and keep one eye out for the dark figure who’s been watching the island, waiting patiently for the right moment to strike…
A Conspiracy of Wolves – 1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumors spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling?
A Choir of Crows – December, 1374. With the great and the good about to descend on York for the enthronement of Alexander Neville as the new archbishop, the city authorities are in a state of high alert. When two bodies are discovered on the grounds of York Minster, and a flaxen-haired youth with the voice of an angel is found locked in the chapter house, Owen Archer, captain of the city bailiffs, is summoned to investigate.
The Riverwoman’s Dragon – May, 1375. Owen Archer returns from London to find York in chaos. While the citizens are living in terror of the pestilence which is spreading throughout the land, a new physician has arrived, whipping up fear and suspicion against traditional healers and midwives. With the backing of the new archbishop, he is especially hostile towards Magda Digby, the wise woman who has helped and healed the people of York for many years. At the same time, Magda is uneasy about the arrival of two long-lost kinsfolk. Though they say they are seeking her help, she senses a hidden agenda.
A Fox in the Fold – October, 1376. Owen Archer is summoned by sheriff Sir Ralph Hastings regarding a stripped and bloodied body discovered on the road north to York. Could it be connected to an attack on a carter and his laborers who were transporting stone destined for St Clement’s Priory? The carter fled, but his men stayed to fight and are now missing. Is the victim one of them?