First Sentence: They were out there.
It started with the death of young girls, and the accusation of cannibalism, the murder of an innocent man and his curse on the village. Now a young girl's skull has been found and Sir Baldwin de Fernshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, Bailiff Simon Puttock and Coroner Roger de Gidleigh travel to the village of Sticklepath; a place of death and secrets. The death toll keeps rising.
Jecks is so good at not only establishing a sense of time and place, but creating an atmosphere. The depth and extent of his research is always evident.
He clearly expresses the hardship and cruelty of life from disease, nature, as well as the abuses by those in power and the extent to which the desperate can be driven. In spite of the power of the Catholic Church over people lives, this is still a time of superstition and fear of witches and spirits. Jecks' Author's Notes at the beginning of the book are informative and interesting.
Having a Cast of Characters is such an asset and I'm glad Jecks included it. Even without it, the characters are distinctive and memorable, particularly the two protagonists; Baldwin and Simon. They are friends but, due to their backgrounds and experiences, very different in outlook and attitude. Baldwin is an ex-Templar knight and who's experiences have resulted in his being more accepting and open minded. This book is filled with characters, quite a few are very unpleasant, yet I never identified the killer.
This brings me to the plot. In some ways, I found it so depressing, it was hard to get through. If anything I felt Jecks was so caught up in bringing the period to life, he lost the tautness of the story. The positive side is that there were no portents or clues one could pick up so I certainly never saw the end coming. Justice was served but I wasn't completely happy with the way in which it was done'but that may be just me.
As an author of historical mysteries, Jecks ranks among the best for accuracy. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses.
THE STICKLEPATH STRANGLER (Hist Mys-Sir Baldwin de Furnshill/Simon Puttock-England-Middle Ages/1322) ' Good
Jecks, Michael ' 12th in series
Headline, ©2001, UK Hardcover ' ISBN: 074726919X