Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Headline
Release Date: November 2003
ISBN: 0755301722
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre:  Historical Crime [1323 Scilly Isles]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Outlaws of Ennor
By Michael Jecks

      When I pick up one of Michael Jecks’ historical crime novels, I always think that it is going to be cozy, like the vast majority of Ellis Peters’ wannabes work, but this is not so. In the sixteenth title in the long-running and surprisingly imaginative (not running out of steam yet) Sir Baldwin Furnshill and his sidekick Simon Puttock are on their way home from their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Neither is keen on long sea voyages, and this one proves worse than usual when Breton pirates appear and then a mighty storm casts them up on the Isles of Scilly. As each man is cast up on a different island, each thinks the other is dead, but soon they have rather more to worry about. Simon is commanded by the corrupt Ranulph de Blancminster, who virtually owns the islands, to look into the murder of his tax collector, while Baldwin is fighting off the attentions of the lovely Tedia, who wants a divorce from her impotent husband. On a set of islands far from the King’s Writ, populated mainly by outlaws, pirates and other miscreants, the hapless pair have their work cut out just staying alive.

     In the past three or four books, Jecks has allowed a Susannah Gregory vein of misplaced humor to permeate his work, focussing especially on the unfortunate figure of Simon. Maybe he has been reading my reviews, for all that has gone and we are left with what remains, which is a jolly good story that gives a convincing picture of the middle ages and carries its length well. Sensibly, he paints a picture of a beautiful place spoiled by its dodgy inhabitants, dangerous and far from any real law and order where anything might happen. This is quite a page-turner plotwise, perhaps a little longer than absolutely necessary, but not by much; Jecks’ novels seem to get longer and longer for some reason. Again too, it is Jecks’ ability to show us what makes his characters tick yet still present them as being very evidently of their time that is so laudable, and it is also interesting to read about a part of the British Isles that does not normally feature in books. Coupled with the impending shift from Lydford to Dartmouth as a base, it shows that Jecks has that rare quality in writers--the ability to change his books just enough to keep the whole thing bubbling merrily, but not too much to alter them out of all recognition. This is a trait many television script writers would do well to emulate…it pays off, and makes his characters and their situations seem more real and not just a series of loosely-linked episodes. All rather praiseworthy, in fact.