cover image The Traitor of St. Giles

The Traitor of St. Giles

Michael Jecks. Headline Book Publishing, $28 (328pp) ISBN 978-0-7472-7403-2

In this medieval romp, the ninth in the series (Belladonna at Belstone, etc.), Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, keeper of the king's peace in Crediton, and his old friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, join the throngs gathering at Lord Hugh de Courtenay's castle in Tiverton to celebrate the midsummer feast of St. Giles. Trouble is afoot. Hugh Despenser, King Edward II's corrupt favorite, is attracting nobles to his ignoble cause and threatening civil war. Someone murders Sir Gilbert de Carlisle, Despenser's ambassador to Lord Hugh, while he's carrying a chest of gold to the king. The head and body of outlaw Philip Dyne are found nearby. Harlewin le Poter, coroner of Tiverton, announces that Dyne killed Sir Gilbert; two upright citizens then beheaded Dyne as he was trying to escape. Meanwhile, St. Giles Fair is in full swing. Its festivities provide a delightful picture of everyday life in the Middle Ages. Everything, from dress to living accommodations to common speech (especially the curses), rings true. This is a crowded tapestry of a book, peopled with well-developed villains of every stripe. One of the most difficult aspects of solving the case is the sheer number of suspects. It seems that everyone had some excuse to be in the forest glade where Dyne and Sir Gilbert were killed. Set upon by footpads and cutthroats, Sir Baldwin and Simon realize that the truth behind the murders is far more sinister and complex than the coroner imagines. (Oct.)