Welcome to medieval Devon – the early fourteenth century to be precise. This is a collection of four short stories from the pen of one of my favourite authors – The Coroner’s Tale, concerning the murder of a young woman in a Crediton alleyway, For The Love Of Old Bones concerning the death of an Abbot during a bandit raid, The Amorous Armorer concerning the murder of a blacksmith in his own forge and A Clerical Error, about the death of a forester at a river crossing.
Oh, and there’s a fifth story as well, Dance Of Death, but I bought my version of this collection yonks ago, before that was added. So I won’t be reviewing that one. So brace yourself for a review of 4/5 of a book…
This is an exemplary collection of mini-mysteries, highlighting Michael’s story-telling prowess. Sir Baldwin de Furnshill’s in the first three stories, with Bailiff Simon Puttock appearing in the second tale, but Michael takes advantage of the short story format to try something a little different here.
The first tale is the prime example of this. One of the strengths of the Knights Templar series is the multiple viewpoints of the various characters from all walks of life, but this entire tale is narrated by a single character, the coroner of the title. There’s a necessary evil in medieval crime fiction that the sleuth needs to have a certain dose of modern morals, unlike a lot of the people who held positions of authority in those days. This tale is narrated by such a person, and it puts an entirely different spin on the story – I think this one is something rather special.
Not that the other three aren’t, of course. For The Love Of Old Bones, also narrated by one of the characters in the tale is full of twists and turns and, like The Amorous Armorer, has at least one sting in the tale, and A Clerical Error has a lovely solution, something I’ve never seen before, although it is given as a theory in another book that I coincidentally read recently – it would have been dreadful if that had been the solution in that case, but it works perfectly here.
So, overall, I can heartily guarantee 80% of the book as it currently stands. If someone wants to add a review of Dance Of Death, then do add it below. So this one is 80% Highly Recommended.