By Cathy Clamp
The 14th century wasn’t for sissies. Europe suffered from horribly cold winters, and then appallingly wet summers. From 1315 to 1321 the harvests suffered. Famine caused starvation everywhere, and there were rumors of cannibalism all over the continent. In England alone, between 10 and 15 per cent of the population died. Hanged men, allegedly, were hauled down and hacked apart for food in Poland. King Edward II of England couldn’t keep his lords from bickering and fighting, and there were regular civil wars. His advisors were corrupt and greedy to a level astonishing to consider in today’s world.
Michael Jeck’s novels take us into this harsh world, at a time when the bravest, most noble of the warrior class, the Knights Templar, were swept up, arrested and tortured. It was a cataclysmic event. All the most highly respected warriors in a society—based upon courage, chivalry and religion, were accused of sodomy, murder, cannibalism, and many other trumped-up charges from the over-imaginative agents of the Pope and the French King to steal the wealth of the Knights.
King Edward’s fall from power (chronicled in the Jeck’s 2011 King’s Gold) causes madness to spread across the kingdom, even as his son, Edward III, is installed to take his place. Keeper of the King’s Peace Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, a former Knight Templar, and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock, the Bailiff of Lyford Castle, are tasked with guarding the deposed King. But when he escapes, the friends are forced to race to Exeter to warn the Sheriff. Unfortunately, the Sheriff has problems of his own. A rich merchant’s maidservant has been brutally murdered and left in an alley. Worse, the castle gates were closed when the murder occurred—meaning the killer is still loose and trapped inside with those trying to find him. Solving the murder will turn everyone’s lives upside down, including the merchant with pretensions to nobility, a widow and her two sons and the king’s bodyguards.
Only a true master of the medieval murder mystery has the skills to pull off such a complicated tale. But fortunately, author Michael Jecks is such a master. Michael was organizer of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger. He has been a judge for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and has helped organize or judge a number of prizes in recent years. In 2004/5 he was the Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association in the UK.
CITY OF FIENDS is the 31st novel in the Knights Templar Mysteries, making it one of the longest running series ever written by a living author.
Michael Jecks has written 30 novels of medieval England. He was founder of the Medieval Murderers and the Historical Writers’ Association, and chairman of the CWA 2004/5. He lives in Dartmoor with his family and dogs.