1325, and England is not the safest place to be. Edward II’s hold on the throne, and, in particular, his territories in France, is weakening and Sir Hugh Despenser, the power behind the throne, is becoming increasingly desperate. Edward turns towards a prophecy that just might save his reign – that of St Thomas’ Oil, which, if a king is anointed by it, he will become “a lion among men”. But it seems that his rivals have other plans.
Queen Isabella, Sir Roger Mortimer, Charles IV of France, all of them would benefit from gaining the oil. But all Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Simon Puttock want to do is return home to Devon… Needless to say, they soon become involved in investigating the theft of the oil and the murder of its guardian, but they have more personal concerns. Despenser has finally had enough of Baldwin’s interference – and he has a plan…
Since Dispensation of Death, the focus of the Knights Templar series has been on the politics of the time, both in the English and French courts, and the growing enmity between Baldwin and Despenser. While the stories have contained a whodunit element, the mystery element has taken something of a back seat to the historical political thriller being told. It’s an interesting change of direction for the series, but to be fair, this has never been a series that has sat still and repeated itself.
This isn’t an issue with the book at all, although anyone looking for a classical whodunit might want to look at one of the earlier books in the series. But if you want a thriller that draws on one of the richest veins of English history, then this is the book for you. It was especially interesting to me to see the mention of an incident of a fatality at Edward’s coronation, that I’ve seen used before in one of Paul Doherty’s books – The Cup Of Ghosts, if I recall correctly – although, of course, with a completely different spin on events.
I digress. This is another strong entry in one of my favourite series and while it might not be the best book to start with, due to the events of the preceding titles affecting those herein, but fans of the series won’t be disappointed. Highly Recommended.