Sir Hugh le Despenser, lover and councillor of the King, is worried. As threats mount around him, with pressure coming from France for the King to relinquish his lands, he decides on a dangerous path – he hires an assassin to kill the Queen. But when one of the Queen’s handmaidens is slain instead and a body is found in the throne room, it seems that things did not go to plan – but who has upset Sir Hugh’s plans?
Baldwin finds himself enlisted to find the killer, but he has a dangerous enemy in Sir Hugh. He thwarted his plans once before in Devon, but Sir Hugh knows Baldwin’s secret – and if he reveals that Baldwin is one of the surviving outlawed Templars…
Book Twenty-Three in the Knights Templar series and it sees Baldwin and Simon finally getting involved in the politics of the day – and what dangerous politics they are. With Isabella and Edward on bad terms, and Roger Mortimer plotting in France, this is the beginning of the end for Edward, as all-out civil war is on the horizon. But in the meantime, Despenser is the most dangerous man in the land and Baldwin finds himself walking a tightrope to keep on the right side of the King while not incurring Despenser’s wrath.
It’s yet another change of pace in this engrossing series and another success for Michael Jecks. He brings the Royal Court to life with all of its scheming. From the top – Edward, Isabella and Despenser – down to the henchmen, the guards and the ladies-in-waiting – the characters are all fully developed characters whose stories you can follow throughout the tale, while the plot keeps everything moving forward.
The set-up is very much a classic mystery. Why did the killer not kill the unarmed Queen when he could? How did the killer navigate the darkened palace? And why was the second body found behind the throne with his… something cut off and inserted into his mouth? Ugh.
The solution makes perfect sense as well, and it’s married well with the fact that Baldwin knows full well that if Despenser is involved, then there will be no way that justice can ever be served.
This is the start of a number of books with Baldwin and Simon thrown into the politics of the day, with a dangerous road trip set up for the next book – looking forward to it already. In the meantime, this one is Highly Recommended.