‘Belladonna at Belstone’ is the 8th novel in the Templar Knights series by Michael Jecks. This novel is based in a convent of nuns at Belstone.
While Bishop Stapleton is working as the King’s treasurer, Bishop Bertrand is looking after his religious institutions. Unfortunately Bertrand doesn’t have Stapleton’s intelligence, patience or tact. He is only interested in self promotion. When a novice named Moll dies at the convent of Belstone and the treasurer Margherita accuses the prioress Elizabeth of murder, Bertrand sees an opportunity to replace Elizabeth with Margherita and take the credit for improving the convent. He invites Sir Baldwin Furnshill (the keeper of the King’s peace) and Bailiff Simon Puttock to help investigate the murder.
The convent of Belstone is in appalling condition. The area is very bleak and the convent buildings are on the verge of falling down. There is not enough money to carry out repairs and Elizabeth is focusing on gaining the patronage of a local knight. Meanwhile the men working the grounds of the convent as well as the priest who says mass are regularly crossing to the nun’s side to meet with various sex-starved nuns. The nun in charge of the separating door is regularly drunk and easy to bribe. Margherita is mounting a hostile challenge for the position of prioress and this has bitterly divided the community.
Moll died in the infirmary and was in fact murdered but Baldwin and Simon are soon able to establish the prioress’s innocence. But while they continue to look for the murderer, two other murders are committed, a lay servant is seriously injured and Baldwin almost dies after being struck by a roof slate. Simon must investigate on his own while standing up to Bertrand (intent on replacing Elizabeth) and trying to ensure Baldwin’s safety while he recovers from his injuries.
Simon’s servant Hugh, always morose, is more down than usual. He sees his life slipping away with no real purpose.
Eventually Simon is able to demonstrate the real reason for the convent’s financial problems. But he fails to identify the murderer before they strike again.
The convent’s problems are only solved by the intervention of a higher authority.
While most of the goings on in Belstone were based on documented cases, it was a bit much for everything to happen within such a small convent in a relatively short space of time.
Some of the characters in the story were excellent, my favourites were Elizabeth, Constance and Joan. I would love Hugh if he complained a bit less.
This was another enjoyable addition to the series and I look forward to read the next one – ‘The Traitor of St Giles’.
Book Published 1999