Sunday, 29 November 2020

Book: 'The Last Templar' (Medieval West Country Mysteries) (1995) by Michael Jecks

This is the first entry in a fantastically long series of medieval mysteries that have been championed by the 'In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel' blog run by the Puzzle Doctor. It's nice to see these stories reaching new eras of history, and not just languishing in the Victorian era and later. Jecks' writing is good, with some imagery thrown in to avoid the bland bestseller style you find in so many modern-ish novels.

'The Last Templar' tricked me, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Yes, there are spoilers ahead. There are several murders, which according to classical mystery story telling should all be connected, but I can't decide whether the actual solutions to the various intrigues breaks an important rule of these kinds of books or not. Or whether it is ultimately satisfying. The high quality of writing means I'll definitely come back for another one or two in the series, though. The trick behind the title is also very misleading, but feels much fairer in how it works.

The world of policing in the medieval age is so completely different as to be fascinating. There are essentially no policemen apart from a few sheriffs and a bailiff or two, and they have to organise a posse if they ever need to investigate trouble. Yes, a posse, often referred to as 'The Hundred'. It is also a world without light, and one with an awful lot of fire. Fire was the high technology of the time, and was a more common method of murder. It's also a world where people would still be crucified and burned at stakes. How strange it all seems now, even while our hero, Simon Puttock the newly chosen Bailiff  of Lydford Castle investigates the murders in his area and meeting his new friend, and suspicious newcomer, Sir Baldwin Furnshill.

Where will this series go? We will have to wait and see. I'll keep going until either the end or the onset of fatigue.


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