And so, after New Author August and Old Author October, we head into another themed month, the slightly painfully named ‘Nother Chance November. This month, new reviews excepted, I’ll be looking at the many authors who I’ve reviewed one or two books from and, for some reason, never went back to, despite enjoying what I read. There will also be a couple of books that I’ve tried to start a few times but never persevered with them. And to kick the month off, it’s back to the reign of Edward II and Michael Jecks’ long-running series featuring ex-Templar Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock.
In this second book in the series, Agatha Kyteler, midwife, healer and suspected witch has been found violently murdered on the outskirts of the village of Wefford. As suspicion oscillates between a number of locals, and a visiting foreign nobleman who had history with Kyteler, Furnshill and Puttock find themselves fighting not just a murderer but the weather itself as snow and ice blanket the moors.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Last Templar, which in part sets the scene for the series, but with the regular “sleuths” now in place, the mystery takes centre stage here. The supporting cast – Puttock’s wife, and their servants, for example – are developed, as is Furnshill’s conflicted desire as to whether to find a wife or not, but first and foremost, this is a mystery novel, with a couple of violent murders to take care of.
Now, I will say this, I was a bit worried while reading the book. It’s a good read, and the characters and descriptions bring the village and the icy moor to life, but the set-up was one of the more difficult ones to pull off. The book spends a long time with two primary suspects and it looks like it’s a question of which one of them dunnit. Of course, there are two options here, either one of them did do it, or there is a third party. The first choice can make you feel like there isn’t much of a surprise and the second choice can make you feel as if you’ve wasted your time on suspecting the two characters for so long. I’m not going to say which direction the book goes in, as that obviously would be a spoiler, but let me just say that I shouldn’t have worried. The denouement is satisfying and this is a properly clued mystery.
Overall, this is an interesting read – I’m looking forward to, as the series progresses, the characters reacting to the general uprising and chaos that England was about to plunge into at this time – and I won’t be leaving it so long before I return to the series. Recommended.
By the way, if you want to sample this series, by the way, Jecks has published an ebook of four short stories from the series, For The Love Of Old Bones. Not sure where in the series these fit (or if that’s important), but it’s a nice little sampler. Review of it coming soon.
Here’s Michael himself talking about the background for the book.