‘The Abbot’s Gibbet’ is the 5th Knights Templar mystery by Michael Jecks and I will always think of this novel as the one where Baldwin met Jeanne.
Tavistock Fair is the largest fair in Devon. Abbot Robert Champeaux, on whose grounds the fair is run, has invited Sir Baldwin Furnshill (keeper of the King’s peace) and Simon Puttock (Bailiff of Lydford) to be his guests. But before they even arrive at the abbey, a dead body is found in the town. With the coroner many days away, the abbot asks Baldwin and Simon to investigate.
The head has been removed from the body and the clothes are not local, so it takes a while to identify the corpse. Then as the two investigators start to gather clues, the evidence points first in one direction, then another, then another.
It was fascinating to read about the law at the time. People were amerced (fined) for leaving rubbish in the street or for prostitution during the fair. Some of the watchmen hired for policing during the fair were worse than the criminals. Once again the plight of orphans was highlighted – they were often left to starve as people struggled to feed their own families. Children were often apprenticed as young as 5 or 6 years of age and girls were often married around 15.
In addition to the murders, this story also had robberies as well as a budding romance between a young Venetian man and the daughter of a rich merchant. Baldwin also finds a woman who interests him for the first time, a widower named Jeanne.
In the end, and after much confusion, Baldwin and Simon manage to solve all the crimes as well as some carried out in another city and one that occurred many years earlier. But what will happen with Baldwin and Jeanne? While the boys are working, Simon’s wife Margaret manages to spend a great deal of his money at the fair.
The plot of this story was excellent but even more than that, I enjoyed the building up of the main characters. I’m looking forward to reading the next book – ‘The Leper’s Return’ for another great mystery as well as the continuing development of the main characters.
Book Published 1998