I've been a BIG fan of Michael Jecks' 'Knights Templar' murder mysteries ever since I came across THE LAST TEMPLAR in 1995. As the years rolled by and succeeding tales starring Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Simon Puttock appeared, my admiration for Jecks' wonderful storytelling abilities and keen grasp of 14th Century life in England grew. Jecks simply is one hell of a murder mystery writer. Then Jecks began involving F&P in English politics and the focus of the stories began changing, which brings us to KING'S GOLD. This hefty - 517 pages - potboiler revolves around the now-imprisoned Edward II, deposed King of England. Sad to say, it reduces Furnshill and Puttock to co-starring roles.
KING'S GOLD follows Edward II - now known as Sir Edward of Caernarfon - as he is bundled from castle to castle. Supporters are plotting to free him; others are wanting to kill him. Still others such as the wealthy Bardi banking family are playing both sides. Edward, fearing for his life, asks Furnshill and Puttock to serve as bodyguards and the two reluctantly agree. As might be expected, there's lots of plotting, murder and mayhem involved.
On the plus side, Jecks once again does a marvelous job of recreating 14th Century England and presenting believable characters. In the past, I've loved how Jecks juggled various storylines and characters in his novels and eventually weaved all the threads together at the end. You have to pay attention when reading a Jecks novel! Furthermore, the developing friendship between Furnshill and Puttock and their various personal toils and travails have been a highpoint of the series.
Yet for much of KINGS GOLD, F&P, who aren't introduced into the story till page 67, are indeed reduced to bodyguard status and rather one-dimensional bodyguards at that. The Knights Templar novels now number over 30 and perhaps there's not much left to tell about Furnshill and Puttock. I hope that's not the case.
Toward story's end, Furnshill and Puttock, along with defending the deposed King, do some investigating of murders most foul and justice prevails.
I don't know where Jecks plans on taking the Knights Templar series but I hope he'll refocus on the Furnshill/Puttock relationship and their roles as agents of law and order and emphasize that dynamic. With all the political goings-on in recent Knights Templar novels, F&P have been reduced to bit players. They deserve better.
As for KING's GOLD: recommended with reservations.