Once upon a time, a monk from Tavistock saw fit to steal his Abbot’s wine. As punishment for his crime, he was lured onto the Devonshire moors by the devil himself and murdered. The story has been told throughout the ages in the region but now, in the Autumn of 1322, the tale seems to be coming true.
Bailiff Simon Puttock is enlisted by Abbot Robert to get to the bottom of a theft from the abbey. Not just wine, but several other thefts as well. But there are dark undercurrents flowing through Tavistock. Apart from the thefts, there are a number of people in town who once lived in the Scottish borders, witnesses – and even participants – in a particularly savage crime. But as past memories and emotions bubble to the surface, there is a brutal murder. Plagued by doubts about his own ability and future, Simon must overcome his own problems in order to track down a ruthless killer.
Book Thirteen of the Knights Templar series – well, that’s what Amazon calls it, despite there only being one Templar in the books – and Book Four of my Readathon – see the last paragraph for details.
After the Grand Guignol of The Sticklepath Strangler – possibly my favourite book of the series to date – this is a sensible change of pace. A much more subdued case, focussing primarily on Simon this time, but the twists and turns are still present throughout the story. In fact, slightly more so, as the reader has the challenge of remembering which character is aware of what at times, and there was at least one occasion where I thought I’d missed an event happening, but it was a character hinting at something that had happened before we got the details of it happening. It’s not hard to follow, but it is a rewarding read that makes for a very satisfying experience.
It’s also nice to have a focus on Simon rather than Baldwin – in double acts, it’s hard to balance the two characters evenly. Take the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler – great, great books, but they might as well be called the Bryant series. But Simon himself has been feeling like he was being overshadowed by Baldwin, so it was good to see this being addressed here.
There was one particular oddity, and that is hanging the title of the book on the legend from the past when it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the main story. There are some parallels, obviously, but no-one ever really considers them as being particularly important.
So, and not wishing to repeat myself, vibrant history, well-developed characters, a complex plot and a decapitation. And, more importantly, I’ve been carrying it around with me for the last couple of days, stealing a chapter at a time when I had ten minutes to spare. Literally couldn’t put it down.
Probably not the strongest book in the series, but still streets ahead of a lot of other historical mysteries. Highly Recommended.
To check out the rest of the series, do take a look at my Michael Jecks page.
This review is Book 4 of my attempt at Readathon UK for the school where I work – ten books between 6th Feb and 5th March. If you want to make a donation to the children’s charities that they support, then please visit their Just Giving page.
And here’s Michael chatting about the book: