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Figure of Hate
A Crowner John Mystery

by Bernard Knight

      Hapless (but oddly loveable) Devon coroner Sir John de Wolfe is back for a ninth case in this enjoyable series. A tournament is always going to result in some trouble due to high spirits, but at this one there is a serious disagreement between two knights. When one of them, local lord Hugh Peverel, is found dead, his family quickly want to lay the blame on the last person who was with him, but Sir John doggedly wants to find the real culprit. Only a few months before Hugh's father William perished at another tournament, and now there is another body to identify.

       After a departure in the last novel (The Witch Hunter, also reviewed on this site) Knight is back with a real whodunit. That doesn't mean that the rest of the story takes a back seat, and I always enjoy the way this particular series rises above being a mere murder investigation. Thomas de Peyne is anxious to be reinstated as a priest, Exeter has a new sheriff, and Matilda wants to go on vacation among other things. As ever, there is a good teasing plot to unravel, along with plenty of authentic-seeming history and local color. If the theme of the last book was how easily a witch mania can arise, coupled with the colourful and deadly politics of the time, this one shows how absolutely a lord ruled his subjects. At times it does seem a little too squalid, and certainly a look at the history books might show that peasants had an even worse deal in later centuries, but the overall mood seems real enough. Sit back and enjoy this one - police procedural mixed with superior soap opera and historical documentary all in one!

The Book

Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)
April 2005
Historical Crime [1195 Exeter and Tiverton, Devon, England]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005