Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Headline
Release Date: April 2003
ISBN: 0755301684
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre: Historical Crime [1323 Santiago de Compostela, Spain]
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Templar's Penance
The Medieval West Country Mysteries, No. 15
By Michael Jecks

     Quite 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.

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