1323. Following the devastating events in The Mad Monk Of Gidleigh (not required reading, but it’s a great book, so why not?) Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puttock have chosen to leave their families in Devon and head to Santiago De Compostela on pilgrimage. And if the Are You Being Served? film has taught us anything, when us British go abroad, things never go well…
But Santiago De Compostela (in Galicia, North West Spain) is no Costa Plonka. The problem with people who head to a place on pilgrimage is that they invariably have done something very wrong in the past – and we all know the effect that past secrets can have in murder mysteries. It isn’t long before Simon and Baldwin find themselves involved in investigating a terrible crime – a young woman brutally raped and beaten to death. As the sun beats down on them, they struggle to disentangle the threads of the mystery before the killer strikes again…
We’ll insert the usual bits and pieces here for a Michael Jecks review. A number of well-crafted characters, each with their own story that influences the overall plot (and have a well-crafted back story), with those plots dovetailing towards the splendid conclusion – it’s basically what I say about all of Michael’s books, but that’s the simple truth. Add in the meticulously researched historical background – I’ve read at least one book recently where you could read huge chunks of it and never realise that it was set in the past – but here the setting oozes off that page. Witness here the two page segment about the perils of a midnight visit to a fourteenth century toilet! These books are more than simple mysteries – there are deeply involving stories, each with a different focus (this time it’s redemption and the need for revenge) but unlike some other historical tales, the author never forgets that at the end of the day, this is a mystery novel.
The suspicion of the reader bounces around all over the place in this one, as it’s a master-class in red herrings. Jecks demonstrates a superb trick here, with things deliberately set up to fool readers who have read too much detective fiction, and I fell for it completely. Very cunning – in many ways, the best crime fiction books are the ones where you think you’re being clever at solving it only to discover that you’ve been thinking exactly what the author wanted you to think. And this is one of those books. Very clever.
Santiago De Compostela is an important place to me – it’s where I got engaged to Mrs Puzzle Doctor, so I was delighted with this book. Needless to say, the message is the same as it ever was for one of Michael’s books – Highly Recommended.
Oh, and you can buy The Mad Monk of Gidleigh, this one and The Outlaws of Ennor (coming soon on the blog) as a bargain ebook collection here. Don’t worry about the titles on the front being in the wrong order, the ebook’s got it right!
Oh, and here’s Michael himself talking about the book: