Come to the island of Ennor in the Scilly Isles in the summer of 1323. The perfect holiday spot. OK, the pirates who plague the surrounding waters are a bit of a problem. As is the local lord’s interpretation of the salvage laws – namely that if nobody survives a shipwreck, then the cargo is for the taking. Of course, it’s not necessarily the wreck that kills them…
One such shipwreck/pirate attack separates Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock on their way back from their pilgrimage to Santiago De Compostela. Each, stranded on separate islands, believes the other is dead, but they don’t have any time to mourn. Robert, the tax collector of Ranulph de Blancminster, has been murdered and Simon is recruited to find the killer. On the other island, Baldwin finds another side to the story – Robert was the would-be lover of Baldwin’s married rescuer. As Baldwin finds himself emotionally involved in the situation, he finds his own life placed in danger.
Sorry for the delay in posting, readers – the laptop blew up, but things are back to normal now, and how better to start off than with one of my favourite series. The inaccurately-named-on-Goodreads Knights Templar series (there’s only one of them) has reached the midway point with Book 16 and Baldwin and Simon are still away from home. The isolated community of Ennor is a fascinating change – it changes motivations away from what you might expect from normal behaviour as the sense of protecting the community comes to the fore. Of course whether that means protecting it from pirates, from corrupt lords or simply from wanton behaviour is up to the individual.
There’s also a main tragic story that runs through the tale – that of what it means to be married and impotent in medieval times. And it’s based on a true story. I’ll not say anything about where that tale goes and how it influences the big picture, but it’s a truly fascinating story that seems completely alien to modern attitudes. Plus it gives Michael a chance to introduce us to a number of medieval words for penis.
For our heroes, there’s a massive development for Baldwin that will undoubtedly have repercussions further down the line. While it might seem out of character, it’s presented in a context that does make it understandable, if a little disappointing. Although his earlier comment of an attractive woman being “worth a tumble” seems definitely out of character given his chasteness even towards his wife (at first). Still, a minor quibble.
As ever, there’s much more here that a simple murder mystery, although, again as ever, Michael never forgets that this is the most important part of the tale for some readers. The final chapters are like a game of pinball as suspicion ricochets from character to character and there’s a lovely multiple bluff that does a good job of making this reader look the wrong way.
Overall, it’s another outstanding entry in an outstanding series. A tale dripping in history but also full of character and plot. Highly Recommended.
Over to Michael himself to give it a plug: