Crispin – The Cross of Lead by Avi is a mystery novel in an historical setting: medieval England. The employment of historical events and figures like John Ball and the Peasants’ Revolt contextualizes the story and adds to its verisimilitude, as do references to the Catholic church, the repressive feudal system, and the horrific Black Plague.
The mystery is the search for Crispin’s true identity. Avi employs evocative language to create a mood of darkness and mystery. Furthermore, he places his characters in settings that help to amplify a sense of foreboding: dark forests and empty churches, and looming castles. The following passage provides an example of how setting can help to evoke a general feeling of mystery that engages the reader’s curiosity as Crispin goes on his journey of self discovery:
“All lay in uneasy silence, putting me in mind of the abandoned village where I had first met Bear. But here, at one end of the square, stood the palace of the Furnivals. It was huge and dark, save for two windows on the second level” (263).