cover image The Moorland Murderers

The Moorland Murderers

Michael Jecks. Severn, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-78029-122-2

Set in 1556, Jecks’s middling sixth mystery featuring assassin Jack Blackjack (after 2020’s Death Comes Hot) opens at an inn in Okehampton, Devon, where Blackjack has just beaten Daniell Vowell, the master of most of the miners in the region, playing dice. Blackjack is hoping to make it to France after fleeing London, where his master, a servant to Sir Thomas Parry, was recently arrested. Parry, comptroller to Lady Elizabeth (the future queen), was implicated in a plot against Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister, and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. Anyone associated with Parry and Elizabeth is suspect. When Vowell is later fatally stabbed, Vowell’s son accuses Blackjack of murder. Blackjack protests his innocence and claims that someone knocked him out before Vowell’s murder, but he ends up facing a trial that could well lead to the gallows. The smart-alecky lead, who comes across as a Tudor-era Deadpool, is an acquired taste who doesn’t impress as an investigator, and the entire episode is a sideshow to the political turmoil of the period. Jecks has done better. Agent: Joanna Swainson, Hardman & Swainson (U.K.). (Nov.)