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Roman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500 (Men-at-arms)
Roman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500 (Men-at-arms)
by Raffaele DAmato
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the general reader or student of Roman military history., 12 Feb 2014
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This volume is a follow up to Roman Centurians, 753-31 BC, The Kingdom and the Age of the Consuls by the same author. Using ancient records and sources and archeological evidence the author and the illustrator (Company Member Guiseppe Rava) reconstruct the ever changing uniform of the Roman centurion from the Age of Augustus to the extinction of the Western Empire. Nowhere do we meet a drab centurion. Variations in leg armor, and helmet and armor styles are well depicted and explained. Even the centurion's vine staff (vitis) changes and the distiguishing transvere crest diappears. We even see a Roman adaptation of Christian symbols on the uniform and a re-created investiture ceremony (Plates H1 and C).

All centurion ranks are classified, their decorations are illustrated and, as in the previous volume, we are acquainted with actual centurions through their grave markers and their personal inscriptions left on various monuments around the empire. Particularly evocative is the inscription (found in modern Bulgria-ancient Moesia and dated to 184 AD) of Lucius Maximus Gaetulicus, chief centurion of Legion I Italica, who served for 57 years (p.3).

For the general reader or as a reference while reading the classics, Roman Centurions is highly recommended. The perfect companion to this fine work is THE ROMA VICTRIX wine beakerCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker


Cross of Fire: A Pirate Devlin Novel (Pirate Devlin 4)
Cross of Fire: A Pirate Devlin Novel (Pirate Devlin 4)
by Mark Keating
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction at its best., 7 Feb 2014
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Number four in Mark Keating's excellent Patrick Devlin series is as with all his previous works full of intrigue and thoroughly believable characterisations, based on fact and well researched. As one reviewer has mentioned it is somewhat slow to start, however in defence I would say that although lacking in action at the beginning this is more than made up by intrigue and the well paced interesting narrative. Stay with it and you will be well rewarded.
To date I have read all the books in the series and besides the excellent narratives I find that the authors descriptive powers of the time and his character developments are first rate, so much so I have invested in a series of maps so I can track the course of Devlin's adventures.
I recommend most highly Angus Konstam's Pirates of the seven seas which is laced with colour maps, and details the lives and depredations of all the principle Pirates mentioned in Mark Keating's novels.
I have given only a four star rating as I feel the author could do with including a series of maps so the reader can follow the course of events. Highly recommended.


The Prophecy of Death (Knights Templar Mysteries (Headline))
The Prophecy of Death (Knights Templar Mysteries (Headline))
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 25th in the series and still going strong., 26 Jan 2014
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Set in 1325, Jecks's solid 25th Knights Templar mystery (after 2008's The Templar, the Queen and Her Lover ) finds Edward II, England's unpopular king, trying to calm his factious nobles and dispel threat of foreign invasion by being re-anointed with sacred oil that, according to a prophecy, was revealed in a dream by the Holy Virgin to St. Thomas à Becket.

When the oil goes missing, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and his bailiff friend, Simon Puttock, seek to recover it, traveling from Canterbury to Westminster, with various stops along the way. Since the course of action provides few hints of the unexpected ending, armchair sleuths must read carefully.

Despite a somewhat thin plot and mostly undeveloped secondary characters, Jecks does a good job of evoking the brutal and tempestuous society of the period. As an authorial note suggests, he's a stickler for adhering to the historical facts.


City of Fiends (Knights Templar Mysteries 31)
City of Fiends (Knights Templar Mysteries 31)
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeck's at his best., 26 Jan 2014
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Set in 1327 England, Jecks's 31st Knights Templar mystery (after 2011's King's Gold) is a textbook example of how to blend action and detection in a historical novel. Supporters of Edward II, who was forced to abdicate and then imprisoned at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, are trying to free him. Meanwhile, as the historical record suggests, Bishop Berkeley, whose brother is the monarch's jailer, dies under suspicious circumstances. Fear about an uncertain future means that "all over the kingdom people went about in a state of constant worry." Against this tumultuous backdrop, the savage murder of a maid in Exeter comes to the attention of coroner Sir Richard de Welles and Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace. The complex truth behind the slaughter of the clergyman and the servant will satisfy readers as Jecks logically reconciles all the different plot elements by the end.


The Boy-Bishop's Glovemaker (Medieval West Country Mysteries)
The Boy-Bishop's Glovemaker (Medieval West Country Mysteries)
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A medieval Yuletide whodunit., 26 Jan 2014
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A welcome addition to Jecks's successful medieval mysteries, this 10th in the series takes place at Yuletide 1321 in the city of Exeter, whose citizens are preparing for the holy day and for the election of the ""boy-bishop,"" who for 24 hours beginning on December 27 will serve as bishop while all the cathedral clergy, canons and choristers enjoy a day free from the rigid routines of the church. The day ends with a mass and the awarding of gem-studded gloves to the honored boy and outstanding citizens, who include Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace of Credition in Devon, and Simon Puttock, Bailiff to the Warden of the stannaries''.

Baldwin, his wife, Lady Jeanne, and Simon arrive for the festivities only to find a hanging victim swinging by the gate and to hear news that Ralph Glover, the well-respected and benevolent craftsman commissioned to make the gloves for the ceremony, has been murdered and his apprentice accused of the crime. After the poisoning of a cathedral cleric, Baldwin and Simon investigate. Their inquiries reveal long-hidden secrets of some of Exeter's most prominent citizens and lead to an unlikely murderer.

Vivid descriptions of the agonizing death by poison and the muck in the streets, combined with the more pleasing majesty of the cathedral and candle-studded hall decorated with holly and ivy, re-create Exeter as it was. Realistic characters from the disfigured beggar to the angst-ridden adolescents only add to this well-conceived, well-written story. Highly recommended


Squire Throwleigh's Heir
Squire Throwleigh's Heir
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very worthy sequel., 26 Jan 2014
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The brutality of medieval life underpins Jecks's seventh mystery in this worthy series featuring Sir Baldwin of Furnshill, keeper of the king's peace and noted investigator of violent crimes. During the troubled reign of the decadent Edward II, Squire Roger of Throwleigh realizes that any day might be his last as the pain around his heart worsens. Worried about the fate of his young son and heir, Herbert, he takes some consolation in knowing that his capable wife, Katharine, will protect the lad. Alas, just days after Roger falls dead from his horse while arguing with a luckless tenant he's about to evict, a cart driver runs over Herbert in a seeming accident. Sir Baldwin, who has attended Roger's funeral, smells foul play. Against Katharine's protests, he examines Herbert's body--and sure enough, the boy's skull shows signs of having been crushed by a heavy object.

The many suspects include Edmund, the tenant facing eviction; Thomas of Exeter, Roger's merchant brother, who's the next heir; Sir James van Relenghes, an arrogant Flemish mercenary with designs on the bereft Katharine; and the effeminate Brother Stephen of York, Herbert's tutor, who has a taste for thrashing small boys. Various servants, each with his or her own devious ends, thicken the plot. Jecks does his usual skilful job of building suspense and teasing the reader with first one then another possible murderer until, playing against stereotype and conventional expectations, he reveals the unlikely culprits.

As always with Jeck's novels the research is consummate and his characterisations well rounded and thoroughly believable, combined with a fast paced narrative. Highly recommended.


A Friar's Bloodfeud (Knights Templar Mysteries (Headline))
A Friar's Bloodfeud (Knights Templar Mysteries (Headline))
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid and bloody panorama of Edward II's ""war-scarred kingdom."", 26 Jan 2014
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Despite myriad characters and rapid, often cumbersome scene changes, Jecks's 17th medieval historical (after 2005's The Butcher of St. Peters's) paints a vivid and bloody panorama of Edward II's ""war-scarred kingdom."" In 1324, rival landowners battle for property and power, and Keeper of the King's Peace Sir Baldwin de Furnshill is reluctantly drawn into the conflict when the family of his neighbour, Hugh, a humble moorland shepherd, is found butchered and burned by unknown assailants.

This tragedy follows the rape and torture of Lady Lucy of Meeth and her servant, leading Baldwin to suspect the involvement of ruthless Hugh Despenser (an ally of the king) and his fearsome steward, Sir Geoffrey Servington. Opposing this land-grab by Edward's surrogates is a third Hugh, Lord Hugh de Courtenay, also with powerful allies in knights Sir Odo de Bordeaux and Sir John Sully. Nervously observing all this carnage is shadowy renegade Friar Humphrey, who's ostensibly caring for an elderly priest, but is caught in a dilemma of his own making. Despite multiple subplots, Baldwin's perseverance leads to a just resolution.

As always with Jeck's novels the research is consummate and his characterisations well rounded and thoroughly believable, combined with a fast paced narrative. Highly recommended.


No Law in the Land (Knights Templar)
No Law in the Land (Knights Templar)
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting intriguing plot., 26 Jan 2014
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Set in the autumn of 1325, Jecks's 27th Knights Templar mystery (after July 2009's The King of Thieves ) boasts an exciting, twisting plot. England's Edward II rules a kingdom thick with dishonest men, including his own second-in-command and confidant, Sir Hugh le Despenser. Justice is unknown, and the classes are clearly and cruelly divided between the powerful and the powerless. When a well-organized band of what appear to be outlaws slaughters a large group of travellers in Devon, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, keeper of the King's Peace, and his friend, Simon Puttock, investigate. That a large chest of silver bound for the king was stolen is no surprise, but why are two of the murdered party's members, one a monk, nowhere to be found?
The period language can be difficult in places, but a glossary and cast of characters will help keep readers on track.


The Traitor of St Giles (Medieval West Country Mysteries)
The Traitor of St Giles (Medieval West Country Mysteries)
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great medieval romp., 26 Jan 2014
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In this medieval romp, the ninth in the series, 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 favourite, 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.

As always with Jeck's novels the research is consummate and his characterisations well rounded and thoroughly believable, combined with a fast paced narrative. Highly recommended.


The Sticklepath Strangler
The Sticklepath Strangler
by Michael Jecks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serial killing in the Middle Ages., 26 Jan 2014
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In this richly detailed tale of serial killing in the Middle Ages--the 12th in the medieval West Country mystery series, Jecks convincingly re-creates the atmosphere of Dartmoor, Devonshire, in the summer of 1322. When the body of a young girl is discovered six years after her disappearance, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his long-term friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, investigate. They soon learn that other, slightly older girls have been found dead in the recent past, and that the much despised Purveyor to the King went missing during the great famine a few years earlier.

A murder and a suspicious death occur in the midst of their inquiry, and the plot proverbially thickens. Most of the locals--including a priest who's usually drunk, a miller who abuses his wife and daughter, a cautious reeve and a treacherous manciple--are unsavoury, superstitious and frequently hostile to Sir Baldwin, Simon and Sir Roger de Gidleigh, a Devonshire coroner. There are reports of cannibalism and even fears of a vampire.

An introductory list of more than two dozen characters will help readers who find themselves momentarily lost amid the elaborate intrigues and concealments in a world where "superstition is a useful precaution.


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