espite the title, this book is not about a friar and his feud. Rather, the
central plot is the rivalry between Sir Odo and Sir Geoffrey over who will control some rich
lands in medieval England. The novel starts out with the horrible murder of Lady Lucy of Meeth -
she was a widower without heir, so someone killed her to make a grab for her lands.
This being the middle ages, the violence level is high. The opening chapter of the
novel describes a primitive game of rugby played between two rival towns - limbs can be broken and skulls
cracked in the ruthless competition. This is a nice introduction for the reader to this era, demonstrating
how differently people thought back then. Soon the reader is taken to the scene of Hugh the peasant, who
is working on his small plot of land. A band of marauders sweeps over him, raping and killing his household,
this is apparently also part of the land grab. (One complaint I have with this book is that the map in the front
does not show where Sir Odo's lands and where Sir Geoffrey's lands lie - we see the towns, the site of Hugh's
ransacked hut, and Lady Lucy's home, but without seeing the borders, it is tough to figure out just which
side of the river Sir Geoffery desires to possess.)
Word reaches Sir Baldwin (an ex-knight of the order of the Knight's Templar) and the
Bailiff Simon Puttock of Hugh's misfortune. It seems Hugh was once a servant under Baldwin (I am not reading
this series in order, so this was my first introduction to Hugh - the Amazon website calls this book the
17th book in the Knights Templar, but I counted 19 other titles listed on the inside cover, so I believe this is
the 20th book in the series.) Baldwin and Simon ride to the towns to interview the various peasants, clergy and
noblemen who might be involved in these crimes. No one other than Baldwin and Simon care much for a lowly peasant
such as Hugh, but the death of Lady Lucy of Meeth is a crime that ought to be punished. The likely culprit appears
to be the brutal Sir Geoffrey, but unfortunately he is an ally of the ruthless Hugh the Despense, the blackhearted
villan who is terrorizing the countryside.
Baldwin and Bailiff interview a huge cast of characters. I think the large population of
characters in this novel tends to slow down the action. Despite the handy chart of "who is who" at the front of
the novel, there are so many people cluttering up the story that it sort of drags in the middle. But eventually
swords are drawn and blood is shed. Justice is done in the end, but there is a confession which I thought was
awfully helpful to the cause - the problem solving abilities of Baldwin and Bailiff are not on display - despite
all their interviews, they don't really "solve" the case.
This series is interesting enough, if I see another book at the library I will probably
pick it up.