‘A Moorland Hanging’ is the 3rd book in the Templar Knight Mystery series by Michael Jecks, set in Devonshire in the early 1300s.
Bailiff Simon Puttock is called in by the Beauscyr family to help return their runaway villain Peter Bruther. Bruther has turned to tin mining meaning that Puttock has no ability to arrest him since he is now earning money for the king with all the rights and privileges that that entails. This increases the tensions between the Beauscyr family and the miners in the area, led by Thomas Smyth. Tensions that have been brewing for years.
Puttock and his good friend Sir Baldwin Furnshill (an ex Templar Knight) are still in the area when Bruther is murdered.
Several members of the Beauscyr family are suspected of the murder since they would not want one of their villains to get away with leaving. But Smyth is also a suspect as most miners in the area work for him and he doesn’t like miners working for themselves in ‘his area’.
It takes all the skills of Sir Baldwin and Simon Puttock to work out who murdered Bruther. Along the way, a number of other murders are carried out and tensions between the miners and landowners almost descend into full scale war.
The mystery in this novel was excellent, but even better was the portrayal of life in medieval England. There were laws that seemed to be designed specifically to benefit particular groups. Knights, in many cases, felt themselves to be above the law and felt that being questioned about their activities was an insult. A Knight had the right to kill anyone that he felt had insulted him. Villains had very few, if any, rights. They were generally tied to a landowner with no hope of ever escaping.
Jecks also does an excellent job of illustrating the best and the worst of all groups of people. Greed and corruption were very much a normal part of life.
I look forward to reading the next instalment in this excellent series – ‘The Crediton Killings’.
Book Published 1996