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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story - well balanced, 3 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Templar's Penance (Knights Templar Mysteries 15): An enthralling medieval adventure (Medieval West Country Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
After reading this, I wavered between giving this either a 3 star or a 4 star rating; in the end I opted for 4 as the problems this has are minimal in comparison with the really excellent aspects to the tale.

I always remember reading a column in a newspaper by an order priest; he was a great historian as well, not only full stop but of the church, and I remember one time he said that in the pre-reformation years that Europe, despite obvious differences across the continent in culture, language (with Latin a great equaliser though), topology and climate, it was still nevertheless one big country. After reading this, I not only see what he meant, but can see that the author, Michael Jecks, knows this too and has managed to have this embedded in the pages.

Ok, new to the series. Will I read more? Go back and start in order? Yep, and look forward to doing so.

The central character, Sir Baldwin Furnhill; new to me but no doubt known by now by millions as this is the 15th outing in the series, is a strong, robust believable knight of the middle ages - a good man 'though far, far from perfect, blood on his hands (although I'll have to read earlier tales to find how much, if any in reality in terms of genuine guilt/culpability), goes off to show remorse to the Almighty, on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He takes with him his friend, Bailiff, Simon Puttock. The two friends, as most pairings of friends are, are different yet similar, and thus compatible. But here is to be found some of the lighter moments - typical Englishman Simon is a little like a grandad from Wigan, going to Marbella for the first time after 60 consecutive holidays in Blackpool: he doesn't like the heat, moans initially about the vittles, and is equally in Wigan grandad (or Peter Kay) mode when trying to communicate with the locals. But at the same time, his ill-fitting constitution and at times attitude also cause him and his friends old and new, some big problems too. However, smoothing things over and getting them through, is Sir Baldwin, old campaigner, loves warmer climes and as well as reminiscing much in the way old timers going back to Anzio etc do, his greater linguistic skills allow him to be of use when the more serious stuff begins to happen in and around Santiago de Compostela.

Basically, while trying to mind their own business and pray and do penance, two murders happen around them; although Baldwin and Simon are of course out of their jurisdiction, they end up being involved in the ensuing investigations; complicating this is the appearance of an old friend of Sir Baldwin's who has obviously known better days.

It reads very well, the characters, the places and situations all hold one's interest. As this is a tale involving knights sworn to serve the church and their creator, there is of course the almost requisite bawdiness, and here the author I think has done very well in only delving into this in any degree of detail in a few instances, with much being gleaned by more general references than graphic depictions; same for the expletives, there are some mild ones, and this simply allows us to guess/assume the reality would have been a lot worse. Although some would disagree I know, I think these minimal takes on things unsavoury allows for at least a slightly younger readership.

Ok, the downers. A little too repetitive, both in dialogue and narrative when re-capping / summing up what's what, who is what and when etc. And although the book is a reasonable length, at vital points in the story, it is nevertheless a little thin, a few more pages of exposition and/or dialogue to cover same would have been useful.

However, that's just a grump being grumpy; overall, this is a great story and well worth the read.
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