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The Death Ship of Dartmouth
Medieval West Country Mystery #21

by Michael Jecks

      Bailiff Simon Puttock is reluctantly living in Dartmouth for his twenty-first case, near to the sea, which he hates, and far from his beloved family. When a local merchantís ship is found floating partly burned, its goods still on board but the crew all gone except for one dead body, it looks like the work of pirates. But there is another body lying in a hole in the road - surely the two cannot be connected? Meanwhile, Bishop Stapledon has told Sir Baldwin de Furnshill to ride to Dartmouth in search of spies. The whole kingdom is at stake, and if Baldwin and Simon fail they could be executed.

There is plenty of real history in with the mystery in this book, which gives a fairly uncompromising look at Edward IIís disastrous reign. This was a time when Lord Despenser and his followers were allowed to do as they pleased, and Queen Isabella was in dire trouble, along with anybody else French. This used to once be a rather cozy series in a similar vein to Brother Cadfael, but not now, as Jecks has found his true voice after trying this and other styles (with varying effectiveness). There is a lot of story in here, with more than one plot bubbling merrily along in just under 400 pages. This is rather a lot for a whodunit, but to give Jecks credit I didnít feel it was too long, even if parts of it were sometimes a little repetitive. As usual there is a nifty balancing act between mystery and history that had me closing the cover with a satisfied snap and feeling as if I had truly had my moneyís worth. Along with the plots there was the usual catching up with the news from our old friends, although perhaps less than in some other books. This is a strong series that gets stronger, with inventive, chewy stories that continue to delight. More, please...

The Book

June 2006
Historical Crime [1324 Devon, UK]
More at US|| UK
NOTE: Some Violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006