ormally, I try to read books in a series in order. But I saw this book on the library rack
of Paperback Picks, and picked it up. It is number 21 in the Knights Templar mystery series. I can't imagine reading
all 21 books in a series, it is hard enough to read 3 or 4. Despite Jecks prolific output, this is a well-told story, it doesn't have the feel of a formulaic novel, despite there being twenty preceding episodes.
There are a lot of characters (there is a three page cast of characters at the start of the
novel.) I don't know if these characters show up in many of the novels, and so are familar to loyal readers, or if only
Sir Baldwin (a knight) and Simon Puttock (a bailiff) are the only constants throughout the series. Some of the characters
are just cartoons - Sir Richard the coroner is just a heavy drinking loud mouth, and Peter Strete is the stereotypical
embezzeling thief, and Cynegils is the prototypical drunk. Jecks doesn't spend too much time inside the head of our heroes (Sir Baldwin and Simon), perhaps after
twenty previously editions there isn't much more to reveal about them. For example, the fact that Sir Baldwin was once a
Knight Templar is mentioned only passing, though presumably it was important to the plots of the novels at the start of
the series. But some of the other characters are pretty good - I liked the rival merchant shippers, I liked Hammund
Chugge, a confessed murderer who is now exiled from the kingdom.
There are plenty of murders in this book. Medieval times were a brutal, violent time to be alive. Sir Baldwin
has been sent to Dartmouth to look for a bishop's nephew. While at Dartmouth, a merchant ship is towed into port - the ship
belongs to Pyckard, one of the four rival merchants. Oddly, the entire crew is missing and presumably murdered, but the cargo
is entirely intact. The ship was set afire, but in careless manner, so only the masts and superstructure burned, while the
hull remained intact. What kind of pirates would have committed this act of violence? When the ship is salvaged, the body of
a boy named Danny is found hidden beneath some barrels, murdered by a knife to the back (not the kind of wound one would
normally suffer from a boarding party of pirates).
The story moves at a good pace, eventually Sir Baldwin and Simon unravel who did what to whom, and why. Not
a bad story, I may read a couple more entries in this series, but I doubt I will read all twenty-one!