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A Friar's Bloodfeud
Medieval West Country Mystery Series, No. 20

by Michael Jecks

      Baldwin and Simon can chalk up their twentieth case with this latest offering, set in rural Devon. Fishleigh and Monkleigh are on opposing sides in a game of primitive football, but soon their respective masters, Sir Odo de Bordeaux and Sir Geoffrey Servington, are to clash for rather weightier reasons. Sir Geoffrey's steward has been found dead, Lady Lucy is missing and Simon's old servant Hugh has perished with his wife and son in a deliberately set house fire. This sounds like a job for the coroner, but it looks as though Baldwin and Simon might make more sense of the matter.

This is a dark tale of darker times, and if you like the historical along with the crime, then this book ought to appeal. There is plenty of both in here, with a bleak look at the times when Edward II was king and Lord Despenser actually ruled and did as he pleased. This begets crime, and the murders in here are a world away from the more contrived ones in cozier books.

Jecks has found his style after trying others, and if you think that historical whodunits are cozy, then you ought to read this (although it would make more sense if you read the other nineteen first). If it isn't hard to guess whodunit for some of the crimes, it is for others and although book has over 400 pages, there is so much in here that I can honestly say that this is one long book that actually does contain a long story. This is an equal balancing act between historical background and the mystery that leaves the reader feeling satisfied. There are faults, of course, and anybody who has read all the other books will have noticed Simon's quite dramatic changes in appearance, such as growing taller than Baldwin without even going near a rack. But this is nitpicking in the face of a good story and plenty of realism in all senses of the word (ie pertaining to reality as well as being grim and gritty). A strong series that gets stronger.

The Book

December 2005
Historical Crime [1324 Devon, UK]
More at US || UK
NOTE: Violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006