The Chapel Of Bones by Michael Jecks

Chapel Of Bones 2One dark night in 1283, Exeter Cathedral was stormed by a band of men and Walter de Lecchelade, the Chaunter, was brutally murdered. Many men paid for that night – either they were executed for crimes, either their’s or someone else’s, or else their sins have haunted them for the past forty years. Some left Exeter, some stayed, some profited, some suffered… but now, in 1323, some of the participants from that night have terror have returned to the city.

As construction continues to expand the cathedral, Saul, a mason, is crushed by a falling block of masonry. While that is surely an accident, the second death is undoubtedly murder. One of the participants of the night of terror lies dead, and Sir Baldwin Furnshill, plagued by his own guilt, and Simon Puttock need to find the killer before they strike again…

So many Golden Age books bouncing around my inbox and letterbox at the moment, I don’t seem to have as much time as usual for catching up on my favourite authors – report writing and other work-related bits and pieces haven’t helped recently. But I always enjoy my visits to medieval Devon and I’ll always make time for Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puttock.

This is Book 17 of the series, with Baldwin and Simon finally making it home from their eventful trip to Galicia in The Templar’s Penance and their even-more eventful trip home – The Outlaws of Ennor and The Tolls of Death. It’s also a good jumping on point for the series, although Michael has always made an effort to give all of his books this quality – although the later books, where Baldwin and Simon get involved in affairs of the Crown, might best be read in order. Can’t really say, as I haven’t read them yet…

As ever, Michael tries to shake things up a little. Our heroes don’t show up for a good chunk of the story as there isn’t too much to investigate for a little while. Time is taken to set up the characters, the links (and possible links) between them and several story strands that may or may not play into the motivations for the crime. And each of those strands are given time to breathe – it’s quite common in mystery fiction that once a plot theme is revealed to be a red-herring, it just dies rather than getting proper resolution, but that’s not the case here. Not that the crime ever stops being the focus of the tale, but it means that everything gels together to form a more complete tale than readers unfamiliar with the series will expect. Every character gets room to develop on the page so when something occurs to them – a death, a revelation, etc – it carries much more weight.

As ever, this isn’t a tale with a simple solution or a necessarily happy ending. Catching the murderer or murderers is only ever part of the tale and one aspect – the resolution of the accident at the start of the tale – is very impressive.

If I had a niggle, the motivations of the primary culprit could have been expanded on a little, but this still is another strong entry – the seventeenth, in fact – in one of the strongest series of crime novels out there. It is such a shame that such a large number of crime readers don’t go near historical fiction, as this has everything they would be looking for, along with a bonus. In modern crime fiction, the events between the important beats of the plot can be very samey – here, you get snapshots of life 800 years ago. Utterly fascinating, to me at least. Please, dear reader – give the series a try. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and obviously, this is Highly Recommended.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, here’s Michael Jecks himself to give you a nudge in the right direction…

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