Date: April 2003
it at Amazon US
Historical Crime [1323 Santiago de Compostela, Spain]
Rachel A Hyde
The Medieval West Country Mysteries, No. 15
a few popular series of historical whodunits have followed Ellis
Peters' lead and are reasonably cozy, but not this series. This
fifteenth outing for grim Sir Baldwin Furnshill and his fussy sidekick
Simon Puttock sees them far from their native Devon and on a pilgrimage
to Santiago de Compostela, following the events of The Mad Monk
of Gidleigh (also reviewed on this site). But there is little
chance to find solace for past misdeeds on this busman's holiday,
for the pair soon finds themselves embroiled in another murder.
The beautiful servant of Prioress Dona Stefania de Villamour has
been murdered and the pair must assist local investigator Munio
to find out whodunit. But there are more surprises in store as Baldwin
meets a face from his past, and Simon manages to get himself into
trouble yet again.
Jecks is adept at presenting a warts-and-all
picture of the Middle Ages, a time when nobody was safe from the
powerful and the lot of the poor was truly grim. Although there
is quite a page turner in between these two covers they are perhaps
a little farther apart than is necessary, a trait which all of Jecks'
latter novels seem to share to their detriment. There is some much-needed
tongue-in-cheek humor as Simon reveals himself to be the stereotypical
Brit abroad, but it is Jecks' ability to get under the skins of
his characters and still present them as being obviously of their
time that is so praiseworthy. Giving the readers a rest from the
familiar environs of Dartmoor and showing his two protagonists in
a new place is a superb idea and it pays off, making his series
seem more real and not just a group of loosely-linked episodes.