The Traitor of St Giles by Michael Jecks

The Traitor of St Giles1321, Tiverton. Philip Dyne has confessed to the murder of a young woman and has sought sanctuary in the church of St Peter’s. As per the law, he has to walk to the coast along the King’s highway and leave the country. If he were to leave the highway, then he can be lawfully executed.

Sir Gilbert of Carlisle has come to Tiverton on a mission to find support for the Despenser family in the civil war that people believe is coming. And in an effort to persuade the Lords to support them, he carries with him a lot of gold…

Soon they both lie dead in the woods – Philip has been decapitated and Gilbert has been stabbed in the back. The assumption is that Philip killed Gilbert for his money and was then executed as a murderer. But how could a simple peasant kill an armed knight? And where did the money go?

Yes, I know Michael Jecks has a new book out today – Fields of Glory – but you’ll have noticed that I’ve still got a load more of this series to go. It’s no secret that I’ve become a massive fan of Michael’s work. The series – this is the ninth book, by the way – has gone from strength to strength, complex murder mysteries with a strong historical background and a cast of characters that I’ve found myself more and more invested. Not just Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puttock, but all of the characters that make up their extended families. And early on in this book, one of them dies…

And that shows how much I appreciate this series, because I was really angry when it happened. Which was a pretty weird feeling given that the character is a dog. Was a dog. Rest in peace, Chopsie…

Anyway, apart from that bit, we’ve another complex mystery with a number of murders, most of which have a very guessable (but satisfying) resolution, but the central killing of Gilbert is a complex logic problem of a mystery – everyone seems to have seen something in the woods that night, but it would take a better man than me to straighten out the stories to work out who the murderer was.

I should point out that it’s not just the regular characters that you come to care about. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Michael Jecks does an excellent job of populating the book with real characters – some deeply unpleasant, it must be said, but others whose fates, good or bad, are as much a part of the plot as the mystery.

So, as ever, it’s Highly Recommended. While not the strongest of the books so far – I think that’s probably The Leper’s Return – it’s still a top quality medieval mystery from a series that hasn’t put a foot wrong. Re-issued with a shiny new cover, maybe now it’s time to try the series yourself… Why not let Michael try and convince you himself?

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