Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Headline
Release Date: November 2002
ISBN: 0755301684
Format Reviewed: Hardback
Buy it at Amazon US || UK
Read an Excerpt
Genre: Mystery / Historical Crime (1323 Dartmoor, Devon, England)
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Mad Monk of Gidleigh
Medieval West Country Mystery
By Michael Jecks  

     If you are looking for a cozy read, this is not it. Despite this book's rather intimidating length, there is much to praise about Jecks' uncompromisingly gritty picture of life in the mid 14th century, which has the feel of authenticity about it that is the next best thing to a trip in a time machine. Not that you would particularly want to undertake such a trip if this fourteenth and bleakest tale is anything to go by. Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the Peace, and his aide Simon Puttock, the Bailiff of Lydford, have their work more than cut out for them to discover who has killed pretty young Mary, the Miller's daughter, and her unborn child. Evidence seems to point to the man who got her pregnant; young Mark the priest in his lonely chapel who has run off. But as usual there is more going on than just that, as Sir Ralph de Wonson and his vicious son Esmon have taken over Gidleigh Castle, following the rather sudden death of the crippled Sir Richard Prowse. When Baldwin and Simon finally arrive on the scene there seem to be plenty of witnesses and suspects for Mary's murder, but there is far greater danger to the pair than that…

     Jecks portrays the grimness of mediaeval life for not only serfs but for many wealthier people as well, as though he has been there himself. It was a time when famine meant starvation for many, punishments were brutal and nobles were likely to do just about anything on a whim. To its detriment this story is not sufficiently lengthy to warrant a fat novel of well over 400 pages, and there are times when it flags and grows repetitive; hang on though, as the denouement will have you on the edge of your seat. As usual, Jecks shows how well he knows his area (which is close to this reviewer's home, too, so I can vouch for this!) This series started off in a slightly cozier vein, but now is so well into its stride that half the time it is less a whodunit and more a tale of daily drama involving many familiar characters - a mediaeval soap opera in part--and this adds an extra dimension where other series can seem disjointed and episodic. It will be very interesting (for reasons I will not divulge) to find out what happens in the next book.

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved