1319 and everyone is heading to Tavistock for the fair. Merchants from both near and far, men of the cloth, and one man in particular who has perhaps unwisely chosen to return to the town from overseas after many years away. A man who was charged with a crime that will cause him to hang if he is caught.
Simon Puttock, bailiff of Lydford, and Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, are in town as guests of the Abbot, but are quickly summoned to help when a dead body is found – only identification is difficult when it is missing a head. Simon and Baldwin investigate but it seems that everyone in town has their own agenda – be it in the cause of love, obsession, money or simple revenge…
Book four from Michael Jecks – still over twenty five to go – and again, I’ve left it too long between books. It’s the difficulty of balancing a number of ongoing series with new authors – I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy mix of new (to me) authors and established favourites in order to keep the blog looking fresh, but there are always authors that I want to keep returning to. And Michael Jecks is certainly one of them.
This book is an extremely impressive piece of work. The author has a talent for making the reader think that they’re being clever in working something out only to pull the rug out from under them. With multiple viewpoints throughout the story, it takes a clever writer to still maintain a puzzling mystery. At times, you simply don’t know where to look, but as with The Crediton Killings, everything actually makes sense at the end of the day. Even when something’s relevance isn’t clear, it’s still interesting – but trust me, dear reader, everything is important in one way or another. The characters are all distinctive and full of colour, each seemingly capable of murder with the right motivation.
The background material is as rich as ever. Jecks always chooses a different backdrop to these stories and this time we get an insight into the ins and outs of a medieval fair – the legality of not clearing away your dung, for example, or the fact that all the ladies of dubious virtue have to leave town during the fair to avoid tainting the town’s image. Small background details, maybe, but they add colour to an already vivid landscape.
As the book progresses and the threads begin to intertwine, it becomes a complete page-turner – I think I read the second half of the book in a single sitting – and the murderer is both well-hidden and obvious when it’s pointed out. The perfect solution to a cracking read.
Obviously, this is Highly Recommended. Once again, I’ll whinge a little at the irrelevance of the new covers – they look nice, but have little to do with the book – but if that’s the only negative thing that I can say, that speaks pretty well of this book and the series so far.
Here’s Mr Jecks himself talking about this book.