Unfortunately, The Butcher of St. Peter's is far from the best novel in the series. Jecks seems to be in a bit of a lull, writing less vividly than he did a dozen years and 15 or 16 books ago. The Keeper of the King's Peace, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, has been called to Exeter to solve a dispute over the estate and remains of a wealthy man. As he and Bailiff Simon Puttock try to untangle this complicated and uninvolving problem, they are drawn into the murder of a prominent citizen. We should suspect the titular butcher, but we don't - like the people of Exeter, we know he's a broken but ultimately harmless man. Unfortunately, I didn't care who committed the murder, or the resolution of Sir Henry's estate and burial, or the actions of a medieval crime lord. It's a kitchen sink of a novel, in which these three minor mysteries are mixed with Sir Baldwin's guilt over his brief encounter (while shipwrecked) with another woman, his wife Jeanne's fear that she has lost her husband's love, and the preening of Sir Baldwin's nemesis, Sir Perigrine de Barnstaple. I enjoy spending time with these characters, but I wish Jecks had devised a stronger plot.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Butcher of St. Peter's
I have mixed feelings about prolific series-bases writers. Michael Jecks produces a mystery about every nine months, which means that I usually have more than one of his titles in my infrequent amazon.co.uk deliveries, and if I were to stop importing paperbacks, I'd still have half a dozen Sir Baldwin mysteries sitting on my shelf.